Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high school. Show all posts

Friday, August 28, 2015

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll


Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancĂ©, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that's bigger than it first appears. 

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?


My Review:

I remember hearing about Luckiest Girl Alive back around the time when I was reading Hausfrau, and The Girl on the Train was still fresh, and everyone was all WE NEED TO FIND THE NEXT GONE GIRL.  (A book that I love, but can we agree that we need to stop looking for the next one?)  That said, I am a sucker and will read anything compared even tangentially to Gillian Flynn's magnum opus--even this book, which honestly seems to get more lukewarm reviews than solidly good ones.

I am happy I fell for the bait here though, because my review is decidedly not lukewarm.  I adored this novel from cover to cover.

My first draw was to the protagonist, Ani, who in the beginning gives off a real bitchy, biting vibe.  I liked her despite this harsh edge.  Ani is judgmental, vain, and sneaky.  However, she's also quite the faker, as she keeps many of her unflattering opinions to herself, manipulating those around her to see only the parts of her that she allows them to see.  This was my first clue to the fact that Ani is not what she initially seems.  Her character transforms immensely over the course of the book.  She exposes weaknesses that I never imagined when I met her tough exterior on page 1.  The Ani of the final page is nearly unrecognizable from the one you meet early on, but given the events that are revealed throughout the novel, I found that to be a perfectly believable shift.

I like plot twists, and I got a lifetime supply here.  Ani's background at Bradley is slowly revealed, and when the BIG problem of her past was finally thrown open, I never saw it coming.  But there were plenty of smaller issues to keep me riveted along the way as well.  This, in combination with the emotional upheaval that Ani is experiencing, literally left my heart racing at many points in the book.  I love it when I have to put down a book for a little while because I am just TOO WORKED UP to continue.

Bonus of this book: amazing flashbacks to high school days, circa early-2000s.  Abercrombie & Fitch cargo pants and Steve Madden clogs for the win.

In the end, I think Luckiest Girl Alive, despite its difficult and violent themes, is actually a bit of a lighter read than many of its contemporaries.  Much of this is due to Ani's character, who brings in more humor than a Rachel in Girl on the Train, or an Amy in Gone Girl.  So it's really the tone that's lighter, not so much the subject matter.

Either way, I recommend this book up and down.  Yay for Ani, yay for books about off-kilter, misunderstood bitches, and yay for Luckiest Girl Alive.

What's the last book you read that you had a different reaction to than many other readers?  (Either you loved it and they disliked it, or vice versa?)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon


Title: Finding Jake
Author: Bryan Reardon
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school. 

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?


My Review:

It was hard for me to go into this novel and not compare it, at least in the beginning, to We Need To Talk About Kevin.  There are some basic similarities: a fiction novel about a school shooting, told from the perspective of a parent of the shooter.  However, Finding Jake quickly dovetailed into its own unique tale, as there were important differences that became apparent early on.  Most importantly, Jake is only a suspected shooter in the killing that takes place, and you spend much of the novel trying to figure out if he was actually involved or not.  Related to that, Jake is not nearly so damaged (demonic?) as Kevin in Lionel Shriver's novel.  These details, paired with the fact that the narrator is Jake's father Simon (a self-critical stay-at-home dad), give you a novel that tells a story unlike any other.

With an event so catastrophic as a school shooting at its core, it's easy to expect that Jake will be the center of this novel's universe.  However, I found that Simon's story was truly the driving force for most of it.  When he realizes that Jake could be a killer, Simon delves into the last 17 years of his parenting to figure out where he could have gone wrong.  Did he socialize Jake enough?  Did he let him hang out with the wrong friends?  As the parent who was primarily responsible for child-rearing for so many years, it's easy to see how Simon would want to overanalyze even the most minute decisions he made as a father through the years.  Did he do the right things for his son?  Does he even truly know him?

I found Simon's perspective to be engaging and relatable--yes, likely because I, too, am an overly-critical-of-myself stay-at-home parent, but even if I wasn't, Reardon writes this character with a clarity that brings Simon's reality to life for any reader.  Simon's job has been his kids for nearly two decades, and now he finds that one of them may have committed a horrible atrocity.  How can he not second guess his entire life as a father?  His journey is heartbreaking, but also intriguing, as his position as a stay-at-home dad (vs. the more common stay-at-home mom) adds a distinctive twist to the narrative.

I do have to note that, as well-developed as Simon's character is, I felt that his wife (Rachel) was given short shrift.  Even though Simon is central to the novel, Rachel's actions are important enough to the story that I should have been able to get a better read on her.  However, I often felt there was a disconnect between her personality and her actions, and was sometimes left scratching my head at why she made certain decisions (at one point, she basically abandons Simon during a fairly critical moment in the book, which based on the knowledge I had of her previously, seemed unfitting).  This is not a huge detractor from the novel, but worth mentioning, as I felt it was quite a contrast from Simon's character.

That detail aside, this book was well worth the read, and I was hooked from page one.  While comparisons to novels like We Need to Talk About Kevin might make you start reading Finding Jake, by the time you finish it, those comparisons will be a distant memory.  This novel has a powerful, emotional story to tell, and a unique perspective from which to tell it.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Bryan Reardon on Facebook.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle


Title: The Whole Golden World
Author: Kristina Riggle
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.

Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ's wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.


My Review:

Who's ready for a doozy of a family drama?  Cuz I loooooved this one.

Obviously, the subject matter in The Whole Golden World is rather scandalous, so I was originally drawn in by my curiosity-killed-the-cat mentality.  However, the best thing about this novel is the way that the author is able to successfully weave a tale told by three very different narrators.  Morgan's POV was a perfect portrayal of a 17-year-old high school senior: headstrong, naive, thinks she knows everything and needs no one...until she doesn't.  Her personality is inherently contradictory, and Riggle handles this complexity so very well.  Dinah (Morgan's mother) battles between being an overly involved "helicopter mom" and letting her kids be kids.  And Rain (TJ's wife) must decide how far she's willing to take the idea of "for better or worse".

Flat characters?  I HAZ NONE.  Each of these narrators has some aspect of their personality that they are struggling with, and Riggle does an amazing job depicting those struggles without making the characters seem confusing or inconsistent.

I will say that, for the first 2/3 of the novel, I was confused about why the author chose Rain as the third narrator, rather than TJ.  TJ is much more intimately involved in the central problem of the plot, and I was often left wondering about his motives--thus, his POV would have been helpful.  However, once I got to the last third of the book, it became clear why Rain was in the POV "driver's seat", if you will, rather than TJ.  And despite the lack of narration from him, by the end, I had a pretty good idea of what his intentions were anyway.

Fans of Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, etc will definitely be into this one.  Yes, it's full of family drama, but there's more than that--it's also beautifully written, and the story is spliced together in a way that constantly leaves you wanting more.  Every chapter ending will leave you with enough questions that you'll have a hard time putting it down, all the way until the (rather satisfying) conclusion.  This was my first experience with Kristina Riggle's work, but methinks it's time to go back and check out her past novels as well!

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Kristina Riggle on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.


GIVEAWAY TIME!
The publisher sent me an extra copy of The Whole Golden World, and I have decided to gift it to one lucky blog reader.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter!  Entries are for US/Canada residents only and contest closes 11/27.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
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