Reviews

Review: THE FORGETTING

28691932facebookTitle: THE FORGETTING
Author: Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 405
Release Date: 9/13/16
Format: eBook
TW/CW: Abuse, death, blood
Rating: 4/5

What isn’t written, isn’t remembered. Even your crimes.

Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person’s memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.

In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn’t written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

I’ll be honest.

When this book came out last year, I definitely thought this was the dumbest premise for a book I’d ever seen. I was also super burned out with dystopian novels and wary of all books promoted by big YouTubers because… ya’ll convinced me Miss Peregrine’s was SPECTACULAR… and that was a lie.

However, around Christmas last year, the ebook went on sale for $1.99 and I, thinking only of filling my Kindle, was like “Yeah, maybe I’ll read that… one day…” When I saw that Sharon Cameron is going to be attending SeYa Fest in March 2018, I decided to go ahead and read THE FORGETTING. I mean, the worst that could happen was I decided not to finish it and quietly move on with my life.

But I liked it. A lot.

The start was slow, I will agree with half the reviews on that. Generally, I’m turned off by books that try to set up an entire world within the first chapter but Cameron did a great job of both info dumping and keeping the reader interested… not an easy feat. I was worried that the romance element of the story would overpower things I thought were most important, like Nadia’s family and how the Forgetting would (and had) effected their bonds.

There were a few things that puzzled me (and were the reasons this lost a star). Why was everyone not reduced to learning how to talk, walk, feed themselves, etc., after the forgetting? If it wipes our memories, then shouldn’t they have also forgotten their language? I’m probably reading way too deep into, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

I also didn’t quite like how neatly the ending wrapped up. While I vaguely understood Nadia’s dad’s intentions, the forgiving aspect was way too fast. Also, it was hard to believe that Nadia didn’t have any hard feelings towards her older sister after everything that had happened.

However, this was a fast paced read and I’m glad I finally took the plunge and read it! If you’re into dystopian novels, a little romance, and a great mystery, this might be the one for you!

190578Sharon Cameron was awarded the 2009 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for her debut novel, The Dark Unwinding. When not writing Sharon can be found thumbing dusty tomes, shooting her longbow, or indulging in her lifelong search for secret passages.

You can find her on facebook, twitter, or check out her website!

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Reviews

Review: SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

22080193Title: SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES & OTHER  LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Pages: 256
Format: eBook
Rating: 4/5

A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. With an original voice that combines fearless curiosity and mordant wit, Caitlin tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters, gallows humor, and vivid characters (both living and very dead). Describing how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes), and cared for bodies of all shapes and sizes, Caitlin becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the deceased. Her eye-opening memoir shows how our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead). In the spirit of her popular Web series, “Ask a Mortician,” Caitlin’s engaging narrative style makes this otherwise scary topic both approachable and profound.

Here’s my big reveal for the month: I’m #DeathPositive and a (wannabe) member of the Order of the Good Death.

I grew up split between the two worlds of funerals. On my Dad’s side, there were muted whispers in a funeral home, embalmed corpses that were waxy looking and overwhelming, and that funeral home smell that instantly makes me think of death whenever I go into a florist. On my mom’s side, wakes were at home, it wasn’t so much a somber affair as it was just another part of living, and taking care of our dead so that their body didn’t have to face the indignity of having a stranger see their nakedness (my aunt Ruth would have come back from the dead just so she could die of embarrassment).

In this memoir, Caitlin Doughty gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of a crematory, something I found pretty… fascinating. While we talk a lot about burial, cremation seems to be a taboo topic which seems ridiculous when you think about the fact that cremation is probably the most widely used method of body disposal. I loved the stories of how different families react to death, how they honor their dead, and how the death industry works when grieving families aren’t around.

I’ve seen several reviews that said they felt like Caitlyn was poking fun at different burial practices, especially the ones in poorer countries. I didn’t feel that way at all. Doughty has a very dry sense of morbid humor and while I definitely perceived she was poking fun at how squeamish Westerners are about bodies (I mean, we do have them whisked away as soon as possible), I think her sarcasm is directed at our “hush hush” death industry. Several people have pointed out that when she talks about how poor people in India will put the body straight into the river to decompose, it sounded like she was calling them gross or barbaric. This is a woman who has talked openly about letting her body decompose in the open… I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe it’s because I watch her YouTube channel, but her sarcastic voice comes through beautifully in her writing. When she says “unsavory sights”, she’s making fun of those of us who believe decomp is unnatural (in the same paragraph, she talks about the lengths we go to hide our dead).

The only reason I knocked off a star was Doughty got a little off track and started talking about some guy she had fallen in love with. Sorry, I’m just here for the death.

This is a great read for anyone who has a fascination with the death industry or just wants to know a little more about what happens to our physical selves when we die.

7802044Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, activist, and funeral industry rabble-rouser. In 2011 she founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death, which has spawned the death positive movement. Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, was a New York Times best-seller. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA. 

Born on a balmy August evening on the decidedly un-morbid shores of O’ahu, Hawai’i, Caitlin was an even-tempered, bookish child. Her parents had little reason to believe that she would ultimately seek a life tiptoeing the line between the living and the dead. It was only when she began to ask the pertinent questions that her parents suspected a proclivity toward the macabre.

(Example: “Mommy, if I was on the edge of that cliff and I fell off and on the way down screamed, ‘Mommy, Mommy, I need you Mommy why won’t you help me,’ and then smashed my body on the rocks, would you be sad? Yes or no, Mommy?”)

After high school, she fled east to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in medieval history. Her thesis, entitled “In Our Image: The Suppression of Demonic Births in Late Medieval Witchcraft Theory,” is the summer must-read for all lovers of demon sex and the late medieval church.

After graduation, Caitlin moved to California, where she has worked as a crematory operator, funeral director, a body-van transport driver, and returned to Cypress College for her second degree, in mortuary science. Unhappy with the state and offerings of the American funeral industry, in 2015 she opened her own alternative funeral home, Undertaking LA, to help people help themselves (handle a corpse).

Caitlin’s webseries “Ask a Mortician” and her work to change the death industry have led to features on National Public Radio, BBC, The New Yorker, Vice, The Atlantic, the New York Times, and Forbes.

She frequently gives talks on the history of death culture, rituals, and the funeral industry, presenting for groups as diverse as the TED, SXSW, The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and universities and libraries all over the world.

You can find out more on her website or follow her on twitter, facebook, and instagram. Also, check out her AMAZING YouTube channel!

Reviews

Review: LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW

17456953Title: LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW
Author: Katie Green
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Pages: 509
Format: eBook (graphic novel)
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Eating disorder, sexual abuse, mental abuse, suicide ideation.
Rating: 5/5

A graphic memoir of eating disorders, abuse and recovery. Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast. But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly. One day you can find yourself being told you have two weeks to live. Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the weak, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

I went in to this thinking it was going to be a quick read (as graphic novels usually are) but this one packs a wallop at 500 pages.

LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW tells the story of Katie Green’s experience with disordered eating that started when she was very young. As she ages and becomes more aware of her body, what was once seen as “picky eating” quickly morphs into a full blown eating disorder. After collapsing at school, her parents put her in a treatment program… with limited results. Desperate for their daughter to get better, Katie’s dad takes her to a “spiritual worker”. The man, Jake, claims he can unblock bad energies in the body. What seems like the beginning of Katie’s healing quickly spirals out of control as Katie realizes that Jake has been molesting her when she’s in a meditative state. After Jake tries to assault her during a festival (where he and his wife have given Katie shrooms), Katie’s recovery regresses.

This is not a light story. Yes, the end of the book does give us the recovery that Katie deserved but this whole graphic novel is filled with heavy, heavy illustrations and confessions. While I enjoyed reading this, I would not suggest it for anyone who is supremely sensitive to stories about eating disorders, sexual assault, or body image.

Reviews

Review: TAPROOT

35833506Title: TAPROOT
Author: Keezy Young
Publisher: Lion Forge
Pages: 127
ARC: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Format: eBook (graphic novel)
TW/CW: Death, spirits
Rating: 4/5

Blue is having a hard time moving on. He’s in love with his best friend. He’s also dead. Luckily, Hamal can see ghosts, leaving Blue free to haunt him to his heart’s content. But something eerie is happening in town, leaving the local afterlife unsettled, and when Blue realizes Hamal’s strange ability may be putting him in danger, Blue has to find a way to protect him, even if it means… leaving him.

I’m generally not a big fan of graphic novels. They fall into the same complaint zone as short stories… I usually end up feeling like I didn’t get enough story to really like it.

TAPROOT was fantastic, though. I knew I would enjoy it because I love plants and ghosts, something this ridiculously cute graphic novel is full of. Hamal and Blue are best friends who have slowly fallen in love with each other despite the fact that Hamal is alive and Blue is, well, not alive. When Blue starts fading into a dead forest and meets a demonic like creature, he realizes Hamal is in trouble… the living shouldn’t be seeing the dead, not without a permit.

The story wraps up rather neatly and beautifully, and I sincerely hope there’s going to be more to this story!

If you’re interested in Queer comics, this one is for you! You can also support Keezy on her patreon!

 

 

Reviews

Review: THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET

2Title: THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Death of characters (non-main, briefly mentioned)
Rating: 5/5

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

 

I am always on the lookout for good middle grade Christmas books and this one proved to be an excellent one.

The Vanderbeekers are a family of 7 (Dad, Mom, 4 sisters, and 1 lone brother… bless his heart) who live in a brownstone in Harlem with their various pets. Right before Christmas, their landlord decides not to renew their lease with no explanation. The kids are baffled- they’ve been trying so hard to be as quiet as possible! The kids decide that they can’t possible leave their home, especially after their parents say they might have to leave Harlem altogether. Banding together, the Vanderbeeker children decide to make Beiderman understand just why they can’t move… and why he doesn’t want them to.

I was very impressed with the family and friend dynamics in this book. While the kids do come together to convince Beiderman to renew their lease, the kids still do what kids do! They fight, they argue, they have fun with their friends. In a lot of books, the central conflict becomes all the characters think about and that’s not wholly realistic especially when it comes to children. People still have lives to lead even in crisis and I loved that in between scheming, the Vanderbeeker children were doing normal things.

There’s a wide variety of characters in the book and while I don’t feel that they were necessarily very well fleshed out, they served their purpose of lending support to the children when it was necessary. I love a good fleshed out side character, but I also love characters that have maybe just a steering purpose.

Beiderman is a classic curmudgeonly man with a past. I pretty much figured what his tragic story would be but younger readers probably would not. If you do buy this one for younger readers, I would definitely impress upon them that they probably should not keep pestering a reclusive neighbor. It works in fiction but probably isn’t a good idea in real life.

All in all, I enjoyed this book so much and I can’t wait to share this with my godkids in December!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

1476114314520

Originally from California, Karina came to New York City for college and has stuck around for nearly twenty years. She has had a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under resourced areas around the world. Now as a mother, one of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can’t go anywhere without a book. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of rescued animals.

Karina is a contributing editor at Book Riot, the largest independent book media company in North America,  where she writes the weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter as well as children’s book recommendation posts.

You can find more about Karina and her books on her website, facebook, and twitter.

Reviews

Review: LILY’S MOUNTAIN

2Title: LILY’S MOUNTAIN
Author: Hannah Moderow
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Pages: 192
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Format: eBook
TW/CW: Death of a parent (non-descriptive)
Rating: 4/5

Lily refuses to believe what everyone else accepts to be true: that her father has died while climbing Denali, the highest mountain in North America. Lily has grown up hiking in the Alaskan wilderness with her dad. He’s an expert climber. There’s no way he would let something like this happen. So instead of grieving, Lily decides to rescue him. Her plan takes her to Denali and on a journey that tests her physically and emotionally.

In this powerful debut, Hannah Moderow has written an authentic Alaskan adventure that crosses terrain both beautiful and haunting—and ultimately shows the bond of family and the wonder of wild places.

I actually requested this book without knowing anything about it. Put a mountain on the cover of a book and I am probably going to want to read it. I went in thinking this was going to be just another hiking adventure novel but was pleasantly surprised at how much this book made me feel.

Lily’s dad is an experienced hiker and mountain climber, so when he leaves to climb Denali again, Lily never imagines it will be the last time she sees him. When the news reaches the family that there has been an accident, one that her dad didn’t survive, Lily can’t believe that everyone is so quick to think that her dad is gone. Lily is convinced that her dad managed to survive a fall into a crevasse on the mountain and is just waiting for someone to come rescue him. She convinces her mom to let her and her older sister go to the base of Denali and camp, something the family regularly does, but Lily has more planned than just camping. The two sisters make the trek up the mountain to where the accident occurred.

When I first started reading this, I was convinced that this was going to be a book where Lily ended up being right and helps save her dad. It’s not very realistic but we’ve all read those books. Instead, LILY’S MOUNTAIN delivers a powerful punch and lesson on grieving and acceptance. It’s one of the first books I’ve ever read that has let a child character come to terms with loss in their own way. For Lily, she doesn’t believe her dad couldn’t survive until she sees the crevasse where he fell. Lily isn’t the only one who gets some closure in this book. Her older sister had a fight with their dad right before he left and the last thing she said to him was “I hate you.” Over the course of the book, Sophie gets to come to terms with her own grief and make peace with herself.

While this book handles a pretty heavy subject, I think it’s an amazing book for kids AND adults. Would definitely recommend this one to anyone who likes mountains, family ties, and a realistic ending.

Reviews

Review: TENTACLE & WING

1Title: TENTACLE & WING
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
ARC: Yes and no. I was approved for an ARC but was also sent a finished copy.
Release date: 10/10/17
MG/YA/NA/Adult: Older MG.
TW/CW: Violence, death.
Rating: 4/5

Twelve-year-old Ada is a Chimera, born with human and animal DNA thanks to a genetic experiment gone wrong. Because being a “kime” is believed to be contagious, she has kept her condition—complete with infrared vision—hidden. But a surprise test outs her, and Ada is shipped off to a quarantined school for kimes.

There Ada meets kids of many different shapes, stripes, and appendages, such as a girl with dragonfly wings and a seal-boy. As she adjusts to her new life, Ada senses that the facility is keeping a secret that could upend everything the world knows about Chimeras. But will someone put a stop to her efforts to uncover the truth?

Clearly, I was meant to have this book. After seeing it on HMH’s Fall Release list, I requested and was approved for it on NetGalley. Imagine my surprise when I also received a finished copy in the mail. HMH, you are too good for me.

I’d like to start this review off by saying that while this is a middle grade book, it is definitely an older middle grade book. I probably would not let my younger godkids read this just due to some violence and the death of a character… which was oddly graphic for a middle grade novel.

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it was going to be more of a mystery novel, and while there is a mystery element, this book is mostly about correcting internalized hatred. Ada, our main character, is a chimera. Her dad, a scientist, has coached her to hide the things that make her different. Her mom, however, does not know what her daughter is and runs a political campaign aimed at getting rid of chimeras. So Ada has lived her whole life thinking chimeras are bad even though she is one, and when her secret is discovered, she become very self-sacrificial. Even though she is sad and hurt that her father basically gives her away instead of fighting for her, because of her internalized hatred, she kind of agrees that she needs to be locked away for the safety of others.

When Ada arrives at the quarantine for kimes, her world view starts unraveling. During the entirety of the book, Ada learns that they- and she- are not what the world believes them to be. Past the differences in their opinions, Ada realizes that they are just children and they have every right to be loved and taken care of. At the end of the novel, Ada has come into so much self-acceptance that she makes the decision not to forgive someone for hurting her. I think that’s a pretty great thing to put in a middle grade novel. Children should be taught that they don’t have to forgive their oppressors or people who use them.

This novel also explored the fact that not everyone is on your side. We learn the truth about Ada’s dad in this book but there are also several kimes who are also pushing their own agenda.

I really loved this book! It was fast-paced and didn’t lag (definitely will keep anyone’s attention!). The characters are lovable and Ada is a wonderful heroine. If you’re into middle grade books with a little mystery and a lot of heart, pick this one up!

Reviews

Review: THE HAZEL WOOD

34275232Title: THE HAZEL WOOD
Author: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
ARC?: Yes, provided by a friend!
Release: 01/30/18
TW/CW: Kidnapping, blood, death, violence.
Rating: 3/5

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

If you follow me on twitter, you know that THE HAZEL WOOD has been one of my most anticipated 2018 releases. I probably asked for an ARC more times than anyone can count until someone took pity on me and sent me a copy (thank you, Rachel!).

THE HAZEL WOOD is good, I want to say that first. The writing is beautiful, I loved our main character, and I loved the premise of the book. However, I was also left wanting more… and not in a necessarily good way. I went into this book thinking that the majority of it would take place at the Hazel Wood, Alice’s reclusive grandmother’s estate. Maybe if I didn’t have it so firmly planted in my head that we would get more of that story- the story of Alice’s grandmother and Hazel Wood and Hinterland- I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.

The majority of the book, however, takes place in New York City and then on the road as Alice and Ellery set off to find the Hazel Wood and Alice’s mom, Ella. They keep running into Hinterland’s story characters along the way until Alice finally finds herself in Hinterland and learns the truth about herself, her mom, and her reclusive grandmother.

I think my biggest problem with the book was that I feel I didn’t get enough of the characters to actually care about them. There’s a scene that should have destroyed me (I don’t like when characters get hurt) but I was like “Yeah, ok, are we going to the Hazel Wood now?” We get these little snippets of backstory for the characters but it isn’t enough to make me fall in love with them. I think if we had gotten more of them, more of their story, more personality, I would have enjoyed the book more. But the characters felt super flat and replaceable to me.

As a fan of fairytales, I was just disappointed with the actual lack of fairytale and magic. Most of the book is just Alice talking about how she and her mom moved around a lot. Personally, if the majority of the book had taken place in Hinterland or in the Hazel Wood, I probably would have loved this.

Again, this isn’t a bad book. I enjoyed reading it but I definitely expected this to be one that I instantly preordered… and that’s just not happening.

Reviews

Review: THE GIRL WHO WASN’T DEAD

1Title: THE GIRL WHO WASN’T DEAD
Author: Samantha Boyette
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 209
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Release date: 09/12/17
TW/CW: Fatphobia, queerphobia, drug abuse, alcohol use by minors, sexual assault, violence, graphic murder (gun), attempted murder.
Rating: 1/5

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Prom was supposed to be the biggest night of senior year, but for Jenny Lewis it was the night she almost died. The night someone drugged her, loaded her in a car, and dumped her body in the river.

The next morning, her soaked prom dress was found on the riverbank. Her body was never found. People whispered that she’d killed herself or gotten drunk and stupid. People moved on, went to college, and stopped thinking about her. Months later, her ex-girlfriend and three other classmates received a text from an unknown number accusing them of her murder and claiming to have proof.

The text? It came from Jenny, not dead and ready to figure out who tried to kill her. There’s going to be an impromptu reunion and no one is leaving until the would-be murderer steps forward.

The best thing about this book was the summary. It pretty much went downhill from there.

As soon as I started reading, I knew who our would-be murderer was. Actually, I pretty much figured out exactly what was going to happen before I was even 20 pages in and if you read other reviews of this book, I wasn’t the only one. It seems our author watched a few too many episodes of Pretty Little Liars and tried to immolate that… without much success.

Everything in this book screams high school cliché.  There’s the popular jock who is a habitual drug and alcohol abuser. The popular mean girl. The quiet, morally good girl. The best friend in love with the good girl… and is clueless that she doesn’t like guys. The popular girl who isn’t really mean, she’s just trying to survive. And the fat girl who is picked on but miraculously loses weight after she save our Popular Not Mean Girl from a dangerous situation. Seriously, that screams Mona and Ali from PLL.

This book was so gross and terrible. Take away how cliché it is and you’re left with an abusive boyfriend, two boys taking advantage of a drunk girl (they pulled her top down and took pictures of her exposed breasts), and our weed smoking “angry Black boy”. Combined with the terrible writing, this was a book I couldn’t wait to finish. Thank God it was short.

I would not recommend this book in any capacity. Mark this as a “do not touch with a 10 foot pole”.

 

Reviews

Review: GAME CHANGE

33413886Title: GAME CHANGE
Author: Joseph Monninger
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 208
ARC: Yes, provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Release date: 9/12/17
Rating: 2/5

Seventeen-year-old Zeb Holloway is happy to work in his uncle’s auto repair shop and cruise through school without much effort. He’s a quarterback on his high school’s undefeated football team, but he never plays. Why would he when T.T. Munroe—a walking, talking highlight real— is around? That is, until T.T’s injured a week before the state championships.

Now Zeb is starting. As he assumes the role of QB and team leader, the entire town is watching him. And when a college recruiter says Zeb could have a future beyond his small New Hampshire town, he realizes there’s a bigger life out there for him . . . if he can play his heart out.

Full disclosure: I skimmed the last half of this book.

My problems with this book started pretty early. T.T. is the school’s main quarterback and he receives a career ending injury right before the state championship. When Zeb goes to visit him in the hospital, T.T.’s mom tells Zeb that none of the other teammates have come to see him. I had a bad feeling in my gut about this one. I grew up in a rural area where football rules all. It doesn’t matter how unlikable the star quarterback is, everyone is going to love him because of what he accomplishes and when he gets injured, everyone is going to be there. But no, not in this book. Because T.T. is black. Because T.T. is apparently aloof and doesn’t care about anyone but himself. It’s deeply uncomfortable to have a white author writing a black character and having him have his entire life ripped out from under him in order to push a white character into the spotlight.

Then there was T.T’s girlfriend, Stella. The way the other male characters talk about her is disgusting. She is a caricature of the “slutty social climbing cheerleader” and while the author had ample opportunity to prove that she isn’t, he went the other way and had her try to force herself on the new star quarterback, Zeb.

I hated that I hate this book because of Zeb. He might be the only redeeming things about this book.

I’ve heard there was some troubling lines about Natives in the book, but I probably skimmed over those. If anyone else has seen those lines, please let me know.

This book tried way to hard to be both Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues… and it failed epicly.