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QuickReview: Stay by Deb Caletti

Apr-15-2011 By Keri
Book #24 of 2011
Title: Stay
Author: Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub Date: April 5, 2011
Grade: A-
Comments: Clara and her father have moved to Bishop Rock for the summer, leaving their home to escape Clare’s increasingly frightening ex-boyfriend, whose level of desperation to be with her really increases the intensity of the book. She meets a boy, Finn, who works on a boat, as well his siblings, an old friend of her father’s named Annabella Aurora, and her new boss Sophie, a tough woman, who runs a local tourist business and lighthouse. Life on the island is good, but it’s intercut with scenes of her relationship with Christian – which starts out new and romantic and turns possessive. Clara wants Christian to stay in the past, but when he manages to get her new phone number, she worries he will be able to find her, and ruin her new life.

I love all of Deb Caletti’s books, but I think I was reading this one at exactly the wrong time**. But Clara is a lovely character and her increasingly complex relationship with her father was a highlight of the story. Caletti writes excellent bit characters, and this book was no exception. I loved the alternating chapters and how it helped the story unfold. It was interesting to read so soon after Dreamland; the characters of Christian and Rogerson have much in common, although Christian certainly begins the story as a much more likable character.

**Christian’s behavior seemed analogous to a character on my favorite TV show, down to a few common lines of dialogue, and while Eli – from Degrassi – is portrayed more sympathetically and just in need of help, Christian seemed dangerous. Just made me scared for my favorite TV couple.

Reviewed partly from e-galley provided by Simon and Schuster and finished by library book.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #23 of 2011
Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher:
Pub Date: April 4, 2011
Grade: A
Comments: This is sequel to If I Stay, and just mentioning that fact is a little bit of a spoiler. But Adam and Mia have gone their separate ways, after she moves to NYC for Juliard, and then breaks up with him by avoiding his phone calls. Adam channeled his heartbreak into a hit record, and he’s on tour with his band promoting their newest album. Adam is tired of touring, tired of his bandmates, tired of promotional interviews. He sees Mia’s picture outside Carnegie Hall and buys a ticket impulsively. After the show, they try to catch up awkwardly and spend a night in NYC, trying to deal with their anger and sadness over the accident, their breakup, and their present lives.

This book was every bit as amazing as If I Stay. I haven’t returned it to the library yet because I don’t want to part from it. The emotions in this book feel so true. Adam and Mia feel like the same characters, but more grown up. They’ve had more life experience and it shows. It hasn’t been easy for them, and the book doesn’t gloss over their pains. But it also never feels maudlin or too heavy. Every emotional beat in this story is perfection.

(It has even inspired me to write a “future fic” in my fandom, so I owe this book a great deal of debt!).

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #22 of 2011
Title: Sweet Valley Confidential
Author: Francine Pascal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: March 29, 2011
Grade: D
Comments: This review contains spoilers. Which probably shouldn’t matter because if you were planning on reading this book, you’ve already read it.

Elizabeth is in New York City, working as a writer for a low-budget Off-Broadway review guide. She has left Sweet Valley after Jessica’s latest shocking act of betrayal – She slept with Todd, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, and after Elizabeth left, they started dating and are planning to get married. Elizabeth has cut ties with her sister, but at her mother’s insistence comes back for her grandmother’s birthday party. She does not come back with playwright and Todd-lookalike Will, but with Liam, a hot bartender that she knows is just her sister’s type. Elizabeth insists she’s not trying to break up Jessica and Todd, but in Sweet Valley, everyone has a motive.

This was pretty much the worst book ever written. And I say this as someone who has read every single Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley University, and Sweet Valley: Senior Year (not to mention the vast majority of the Twins and Unicorn Club books), and only stopped when I was 20 because they stopped publishing them. It’s boring; the sentence level writing is dreadful. Most of the characters don’t even feel like the same ones from the previous books (which isn’t to say they were well-developed in the first place). The last chapter which recounts what has happened to characters from the past is painful and unnecessary. Some of the characters included barely merit a mention in a list of every Sweet Valley character ever, let alone a paragraph in this book. And why on earth is Steven gay and dating Aaron Dallas? Who thought that was a good idea?

Terrible. I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on Sweet Valley books in my life, but I wouldn’t mind getting a refund for this one.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #21 of 2011
Title: The Gospel According to Larry
Author: Janet Tashjian
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pub Date: 2001
Grade: B+
Comments: Josh is a normal teenage boy with a crush on his best girl friend. But online, he’s a superstar, blogging as Larry, an anti-consumerist whose online rants are catching on nationwide. Unfortunately, no matter how much Beth enjoys Larry’s posts, she hasn’t noticed Josh for anything more than a friend. Lots of Larry’s readers want to know who he is, but a certain reader seems desperate to expose him…and seems to be getting a lot closer.

This was a fun, enjoyable read. I was pretty surprised at how it ended, and how it didn’t end up quite as neatly as I would have thought. Josh is a nice kid and this book seems even more relevant today with issues of online identity. I’m curious to read the sequels because this doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to more books very easily.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #20 of 2011
Title: Dreamland
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking
Pub Date: 2000
Grade: A-
Comments: Caitlin starts dating Rogerson, even though there are stories about him, even though he’s mysterious. It doesn’t bother her that he’s dealing drugs, and when he’s not dealing, he’s using; life with Rogerson is exciting. She’d rather be with him than anyone else, including her friends who are starting to resent her from spending all of her time with him. But she didn’t really want to be a cheerleader anyway, and smoking pot with his friends is a great way for her to forget about her sister, who abandoned her family before she was supposed to leave for college, to move to NY with her new boyfriend. When Rogerson becomes abusive, Caitlin feels trapped. If she leaves him, she’s giving up everything she has left.

This was one of the last Sarah Dessen books I hadn’t read and I was saving it because waiting a year or two between books is hard! I thought this was excellent – darker than many of her other books, but another great main character and interesting storyline. My only issue with this book is that Rogerson never seemed likable from the beginning, so I had trouble seeing why she stayed with him. Many people who are abusive have moments where they are sweet or charming and that’s part of the reason it is so difficult for their partners to leave, but I didn’t really see that here. Other than that it was a perfect book! Highly recommended.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #19 of 2011
Title: Incredibly Alice
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Publisher: Atheneum
Pub Date: May 10, 2011
Grade: C+
Comments: Alice is approaching her high school graduation. She’s looking forward to prom with Patrick, attending the wedding of old friends (no matter how crazy she thinks they are for getting married in high school), and figuring out what she’s going to be doing for the summer.

This isn’t out yet, and I don’t want to give away too much, but I was very disappointed in this book. I feel like the early Alice books actually had plots, and this one is just a series of scenes. Some were enjoyable (prom was a highlight, as were some of the goofy moments she has hanging out with her friends), but some of it seemed less significant (one throwaway line about her relationship with Sylvia doesn’t make up for an unnecessary baby shower). I’ve been disappointed in a bunch of the last Alice books because sometimes they feel less about the characters and more about hitting certain controversial issues. This one wasn’t controversial at all, but it just felt like it was hitting storylines that should be included in a book about senior year, rather than an interesting story about Alice. I miss the days of Alice sitting around the kitchen table and joking with Ben and Lester. I like that she’s grown up, but I want more than just moments in her life. I want a story.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon and Schuster

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #18 of 2011
Title: Double Helix
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial
Pub Date: 2004
Grade: A-
Comments:
Eli is taking a year off before college to figure out what he wants with his life. He gets a job at Wyatt Transgenic after he emails Dr. Wyatt, a man who seems to have a connection to his increasingly ill mother. Eli enjoys his job, even as it causes a rift between him and his father, and later, his girlfriend. Eli finds himself increasingly drawn to Dr. Wyatt, but when he finds out the truth about Dr. Wyatt’s research, he realizes that everything he’s known his whole life has been a lie.

This was a great books for high school students. Eli is dark and brooding but likeable, and his multidimensional characterization really drives the story. His relationship with his father was interesting and I loved trying to figure out the mystery. It was hard to put down.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #17 of 2011
Title: No Laughter Here
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Publisher: Amistad
Pub Date: 2003
Grade: A-
Comments: Akilah is bored all summer waiting for her best friend Victoria to return from her family’s vacation in Nigeria. But when Victoria returns she’s sick and despondent and her family won’t let Akilah near here. Once school starts again, but Victoria is silent, barely participating in school or putting much effort into her work, and spending time by herself. Akilah doesn’t know what to do about her friend, and has even less of a clue once Victoria clues her into what the “coming of age” celebration she had looked forward to actually entailed.

This is a beautifully written book about such an ugly and unspeakable topic. Akilah and Victoria are so young that when I was reading it, I wondered why we shelved it in the YA room, until we got to the part about what had actually happened. This is a powerful book that all teen girls should read.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #16 of 2011
Title: Flipped
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: 2001
Grade: B+
Comments: Juli has been obsessed with Bryce since his family moved across the street in second grade, but Bryce has been preoccupied with figuring out ways to avoid her. In this tale of alternating perspectives, we hear what happens throughout the years as Juli grows up and tries to put her hopeless crush out of her mind, while Bryce starts to see the real girl behind his kooky neighbor. There are loads of humorous and heartbreaking moments involving eggs and grandparents and fallible parents and picnics and sycamore trees.

I enjoyed this although it didn’t quite live up to some of the hype it’s received. I liked how it portrayed the different rates at which girls and guys grow up. Juli was crazy annoying in the beginning but as she deals with some serious events in her life she realizes obsessing over a guy is a bad idea. Bryce is very self-centered and it’s nice when he finally makes a connection, first with his grandfather and then with Juli. Not sure I buy how it ended up for either of them entirely. Just because the story has played out over several years doesn’t automatically make an infatuation deep and meaningful.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

Book #15 of 2011
Title: Battle Dress
Author: Amy Efaw
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub Date: 2010, 2000
Grade: A-
Comments: Andi is starting at West Point and going through the freshman “orientation” known as Beast Camp. It’s unclear why she was initially interested in joining the army, except as a good way to get a great education and to escape her difficult family. When she’s there, Andi finds comfort in the routine of activities and in physical training, since she was a runner but never really encouraged by her family. She has more difficulty following orders to a T. She interacts with other plebes, most notably her roommate Gabby who is short and full of energy and takes vocal exception to the ways she and Andi are treated differently for being girls. Andi is more content to be an observer, but in a program that trains you to be a leader, she quickly learns that she needs to step up.

I read the 2010 edition, but this was originally published in 2000. When I was young I read a memoir called In The Man’s House by Carol Barkalow that covers much of the same ground as this from the perspective of a soldier in the first group of women cadets to graduate from West Point. I LOVED that book, and really enjoyed this one. Andi’s struggles were interesting and it was nice to see her step out. Really my only critique was that it was too short. I’d love to find out what happens to her next.

I am an Amazon Affiliate (in order to use their photos mostly, but the occasional gift card is nice). If you make a purchase after clicking on a photo, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.