The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees Review

The Waking Forest by Alyssa WeesThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Pages: 297

Available Through The Book Depository: The Waking Forest

Summary: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Waking Forest is a YA debut that melds contemporary with fantasy and magic in an interesting way! Rhea begins questioning  what’s real and what’s not when dreams begin merging into her everyday life! With her pet fox by her side she begins uncovering and losing herself in a peculiar magic only she can see! The Waking Forest is an eerie, whimsical debut that introduces fairy tales, a descriptive writing-style, and a story that’s more than it seems!

The Waking Forest is a book I’d really been looking forward to–a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch–there’s also a magical forest and the main character has a pet fox?!?! This book had a lot of different elements that would work great together! (+ The cover is so beautiful and atmospheric–it really went with the story).

I did find the story to be a bit underwhelming and it got a bit lost along the way. But, I do see myself reading more of Wees books in the future because I loved the unique concept!

There were a lot of different elements that made this book really stand out and kept me invested–from the unpredictability of the plot, atmospheric writing, unique incorporation of fairy tales, and main themes that stay present throughout the book!

Told through dual POV’s we follow our main character Rhea who continuously has dreams about the attic in her house, but can never quite reach it. However early on in the book, she does and fears for what it could mean. Then within the attic she learns of a mysterious boy (who she calls Darkness) whose giving her some sort of test/game to play! If she wins, she can unlock all the answers he’s hiding. If not, her family will pay the price!

As she’s running out of time, she gets even more lost in this game as she tries to find the answers she’s looking for! I found this plot point to be the most interesting because it gets developed throughout the story and it was just a unique plot point I’d never really read before!

Aside from that main storyline, it also follows her everyday life with her parents, sisters (Rose, Renata, & Raisa), and their unique dynamic as Rhea’s dreams begin to worry them.

The 2nd POV follows the Witch In The Woods who lives in her sanctuary hidden deep in the forest with her army of foxes and grants wishes for a price! Throughout her POV its told in a fairytale/storyteller-type fashion as a boy (who for some time was disguised as a fox) tries to learn more about the Witch by intriguing her with a fairytale of a princess, magic, castles, and a forest!

As we delve more into her POV, we learn how lonely she is and that with each continuation of the boy’s story, she begins feeling less alone.

What I really enjoyed about this book that was underlying, but explored throughout was Wees use of fairy tale elements! But, they were incorporated in a very original way! From princesses, magical forests, witches, storytelling–it all felt familiar but also different and I enjoyed how Wees really created her own tale within a tale!

Before the reveal of how these 2 POV’s were connected, I felt that the Witch’s story line (granting wishes, getting told a story & finding herself no longer alone) seemed to mirror Rhea’s growth as well!  Rhea finds herself lost and unsure of the world, but then its through magic that she’s able to find her way again. Wees’s symbolism through both POV’s was an element that I really enjoyed as I began making my own connections as the story progressed.

The Waking Story is also very much a character-driven journey as Rhea learns more about herself as she unlocks the mysteries about these dark dreams and the magic that’s seeping into her everyday life! The way that dreams were developed near the end of the story honestly surprised me in a way I did not see coming!

There’s also the element of family and sisterhood, as Rhea lives with her 3 sisters (Rose, Renata, Raisa). Their dynamic is different and complicated, but no matter what they really do care for each other, even in the most difficult moments! Having sisters myself I liked seeing this sister dynamic explored throughout the book!

Rhea’s story is told through 1st person and found it to be a very introspective POV! While The Waking Forest could have been more developed in other areas, I found what did make this book an immersive read was reading from Rhea’s perspective. The focus on her & her dreams, and the magic that gets explored made this book incredibly character-driven where Rhea really stands out as a protagonist!

Now onto why I rated this 3.5 stars: I just felt the story/writing was just lacking in execution…The writing is very direct, vivid, and descriptive, but described things in a very odd way. It was going for a sort-of purple prose which I could see, but it just didn’t work for me personally.

I also found that as we delve more into the story, Part 2 which reveals more secrets about these 2 POVs and how they work together, was just executed in a way that felt like a bit of a let down.

There’s fantasy elements explored through the story that the Witch hears and as those get developed more in Part 2, I found myself not really connecting with them honestly. I also felt that as the secrets to the Witch’s story are uncovered, they were never really given more detail and merge with Rhea’s POV in a way that while unexpected, wasn’t developed a whole lot.

Overall, I just felt The Waking Forest‘s whimsical, oddly descriptive writing, and execution of plot just didn’t work for me personally.

However, if your looking for a really immersive YA Fairy-Tale/Contemporary fantasy that really puts a focus on its main character– The Waking Forest is definitely an interesting book to check out!

The Waking Forest is character-driven, atmospheric YA Debut that melds contemporary with fantasy in a very unique way! Through the exploration of the power of dreams, nightmares, and magic, Wees immersive debut offers a unique look at magic, if one looks closely!

February 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton1.Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel Of The Sands #3)

Owned | Started January 31 + Finished on February 2 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Hero At The Fall Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Rebel Of The Sands Trilogy concludes with such a character-driven and immersive finale! Amani and the remaining rebels band together to take down the sultan. There’s so much character-development and the depth to the world of Rebel, the magic system, and politics continue to develop till the very end! My issues however continue to be the time-jumps/quick pacing through locations and how they tend to rush through character development/interactions & setting description/atmosphere. However, above all Hero At The Fall really wraps up Amani’s adventure & the trilogy as a whole, to a very satisfying conclusion!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones2.Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong #2)

ARC| Started February 5 + Finished on February 7|Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Shadowsong  Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Shadowsong is an enchanting and captivating finale to the Wintersong duology. I loved every moment of this book! Very much a darker continuation, this novel takes place 6 months after the events of Wintersong, focusing on Liesl as character with her internal development + growth as she comes to terms with having left the Underground + the Goblin King behind. The elegantly constructed POV continues to brings such depth and life to the many aspects from world to characters, music etc. of this phenomenal duology. The dynamic between Liesl & Josef is heavily explored in this novel & plays such a huge role in this novel. Shadowsong is a captivating, elegant, heart-wrenching, and brilliant finale to the Wintersong duology! (This novel is #OwnVoices for bipolar disorder)

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton3.The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

Owned | Started January 23 + Finished on February 9|Rating:★★★★☆ |The Belles Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Belles seamlessly weaves in political intrigue, themes and discussions of beauty, all through a descriptive and dazzling writing! Camellia Beauregard wants to secure her spot as the Favorite, but not everything is as it seems. Soon, the idea of beauty and power begin to shift as Camellia learns in her quest to prove herself as the Favorite! The descriptive, dazzling, and magical world of Orléans immediately transports you and the mythology/history of the world itself is explored in such an intriguing way! Though the pacing does slow throughout the middle, the intrigue, magic & mystery of the plot keeps you immersed! (#OwnVoices for black rep.)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman4.Starfish by by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Library |Started February 12 + Finished On February 16 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | Starfish Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Kiko wants nothing more than to get into her dream art school. Living with a family, who never seem to understand her, she learns what family means to her and figures out who she wants to be along the way. Kiko has anxiety and because of that, its difficult for her to speak her mind. However, throughout the novel she knows she has support from friends, both new & old, that help her find her place in the world.The writing flows so beautifully, though the heaviness of the story is there. The writing really allows you to see the characters in such a unique way and are given such depth. Starfish is a character-driven and beautifully written YA Contemporary that builds to an inspiring message of hope! (#OwnVoices for Japanese-American rep. + Social Anxiety)

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black5.The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #1)

Library | Started February 18 + Finished on February  22 | Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾ | The Cruel Prince Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Jude and her 2 sisters were forced to go to the land of the Fae when they were young, however 10 years later all Jude wants is to fit in. Both Jude & her twin sister Taryn are bullied by the fae royalty and this just fuels Jude’s anger to prove herself to them. The descriptions of the setting and various themes of politics, intrigue, and mystery all weave together really well. There were characters I was unsure how I felt about in the beginning, but ended up truly surprising me as I read. While there were elements I really enjoyed, sadly there was a mix of reasons why I rated the book low: I did find the pacing to slow a bit and felt the direction of the plot got a bit lost at times. Personally, I also didn’t really connect with or enjoy the twin sister relationship between Jude & Taryn. I also found that big moments nearing the middle and end really had much build up, so it felt difficult to really invest myself. I also found that the morally grey/anti-heroine aspects of Jude’s character that many had mentioned, felt more sporadic than I had hoped.However, the ending did leave me interested in seeing what happens next.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo6.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

ARC | Started February 24 + Finished on February 25 | Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | The Poet X Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The Poet X is such a powerful and unforgettable YA Contemporary. Told through poems, Xiomara goes on a journey of questioning and exploring many different aspects of her world from love to religion, and finding her voice through poetry. There were a number of topics explored and discussed such a relationships, body image/self-love, and tackling sexism. Character-driven and impactful, the poems are filled with so much heart, emotion, and depth. The power of Acevedo’s words shines with each page. I also really loved the dynamic between Xiomara & her twin brother Xavier and seeing their relationship change and grow as the book progressed. The Poet X is a must read, so definitely keep an eye out on this book in March! (#OwnVoices for Dominican rep. + there is also gay & Trinidadian rep.)

Additional Posts From This Month:

February 2018 YA Books I’m Looking Forward To!

Literary Listens: Audio Drama Podcasts That Need Book Adaptations

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black Review

The Cruel Prince by Holly BlackThe Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #1)

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Pages: 384

Summary: Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Cruel Prince is a solid start to a unique YA Fantasy trilogy! There’s intrigue, immersive world-building, and a plot that goes in such unique directions with surprises at every turn!

I’m honestly so surprised with my rating!! I really thought I would give this book at least 4 stars. I’d heard so much buzz and great things about The Cruel Prince, but sadly it just didn’t live up to all the expectations as I’d hoped for and fell a bit short.

Now, even though my rating is a bit low, I will absolutely be continuing with this trilogy. Overall I found myself to be even more invested in the story as I neared the end.

The book takes off right away told through a 3rd person POV of Jude, her older sister Vivi, her twin sister Taryn, and her parents going about their day when a mysterious man arrives at their doorstep.

This man we learn, Madoc, is actually Vivi’s father and comes from the land of the Fae (which makes Vivi ½ Fae). He murders the girls’ parents and is forced to take them back to Faerieland for the mistake that their mother made of leaving Madoc and the land of the fae behind.

Now, told through a 1st person POV, 10 years have passed and all Jude wants is to feel a sense of belonging in Faerieland. Madoc has trained all 3 of them, but Jude just wants to prove to herself and to the other fae royalty, like Prince Cardan, that she does belong.

Jude and her twin sister Taryn continue to face ridicule and bullying from Cardan and his friends, which I saw as such defining aspect to Jude and her actions.

I really sympathized with her and the anger she felt. Being one of a few humans in this world given protection through a higher level fae, she just wants to find a sense of belonging, now knowing she can never fit in the real world again.

While I don’t want to give to much of the plot away, I will say the story continues as Jude wants to gain her place in this land and will use any means she can to achieve her goals.

What I really enjoyed about The Cruel Prince was how wonderfully the setting merged with the themes and complex elements of the story. For example in the land of Elfhame the descriptions Black uses, make the story almost cinematic and immersive, while also building/weaving in politics, intrigue, and mystery to the world so easily, which I really loved.

The beginning couple chapters were really strong. They perfectly set up the dark, magical and mysterious world of The Cruel Prince.

Another aspect I really loved was the development of certain characters. They were ones I honestly either wasn’t too much of a fan of or felt they were a bit flat, but as the story progressed, I ended up enjoying where their development led them.

Those characters include: Prince Cardan, Prince Dain & Locke (one of Cardan’s friends). All 3 of those characters really surprised me more than I thought they would and really had a lot of development throughout the story.

Especially Prince Cardan. He changes significantly as the story progresses and I truly felt he surprised me the most. I really wasn’t expecting to like him so much, but the more that is discovered about him + his unique development, made him one of my favorite characters of The Cruel Prince.

Vivi, Jude’s older sister, was probably another one of my favorite characters + one I adored from the very beginning! What made her so interesting was how she viewed the land of the Fae, not only being the oldest, but also seeing the unique way the author explored her strong connection to the real world than the Fae. Vivi’s choice to exclude herself from this world as much as possible, was to me, just a really unique direction and was explored in such a great way! (+ There is also an f/f relationship, when we learn that Vivi has been dating a girl from the real world)

As for Jude, what I liked the most about her was the intrigue and deception that builds and becomes such a vital part to her as a character.

Now as to why my rating was pretty low:

I felt there was a mix of things that made this book a bit disappointing for me. To start, I felt the pacing became rather slow for me personally and it made it a bit difficult for me at times to stay truly invested in what was going on. It made the plot feel much less gripping + in general, I felt the plot easily lost its way at certain points.

Another aspect that didn’t sit well with me (*this is completely personal/subjective*) was the dynamic of Jude w/ her twin sister Taryn. Having a twin myself, I was so happy to read about twin sisters, especially in YA Fantasy! However, there were certain moments or scenes that I felt made it difficult for me to really see them as twins.

For example, I felt that Jude/Taryn’s personalities were so starkly different that they felt less like twins and were more just sisters + opposites just being called ‘twins.’  We had Jude who was the tougher of the two & Taryn who was the more timid/emotional one.

While I understood why that was done, personally I found it would have made their relationship much more interesting if they had more similarities than differences and see how that played out instead. Also I found they had such few scenes together!~

There was also moments where through the writing, it would feel like there wasn’t much build-up to what was going on & then out of nowhere things would happen. I felt it made it really difficult for me to really invest myself in those moments because they came & went so quickly!

I also did find it difficult to really buy that Jude was the anti-heroine/ morally grey character I’d seen so many people talk about. I felt that those moments were more sporadic for me and she wasn’t as dark/cunning as I had expected.

Regardless, as I found myself reaching the end I closed the book feeling more positive and intrigued to see where the sequel will take the story (the epilogue really surprised me!).

The Cruel Prince is an immersive YA Fantasy that takes you on a magical adventure exploring the politics and intrigue in the land of the fae! The writing allows not only for various themes and topics to be explored, but also sets up an intriguing + magical world. Filled with mystery, politics, and magic, Black’s novel develops (though a bit slowly) to leave readers eager for the next installment!

January 2018 Wrap-Up

Can’t believe the first month of 2018 is already over! Today I’ll be sharing my first Monthly Wrap-Up of 2018~ 

# Of Books Read: 9

Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage1.Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage

Owned | Read/Finished on January 1 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Anchors & Vacancies Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Now pretty much a yearly tradition for me, I try to start off the new year by reading a poetry book, for 2018 I decided to read Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage!

This book contains 45 poems centering around the journey of a love lost and how that loss can impact a person when its difficult to let go.

This quote really stuck with me throughout the entire book:

“There’s a certain kind of ache in the chambers of my heart…”

While I really understood the complex emotions + journey Savage portrayed in the collection, on a personal level (aside from a few) many didn’t really connect with me (hence the 4 stars). However, I loved her writing-style and plan to read more of her poetry in the future.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes2. The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Library | Started December 23 + Finished on January 4 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |The Arsonist Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Told through 3 unique POV’s, The Arsonist brilliantly weaves coming-of-age, historical fiction, & Mystery/Thriller all in one! This novel follows Molly Mavity + Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef who’s paths cross when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of Ava Dreyman, who was a resistance fighter during the time of the Berlin Wall. The friendship between Pepper + Molly was so beautifully written and you really see how lonely they feel, but the bond of their friendship reminds them that they aren’t alone & I loved that! There’s so much complexity + mystery that really makes this book surprising. I suppose my only issue was that compared to Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly (Which I loved), the writing for The Arsonist felt rather flat and certain aspects from side-character development to setting description, etc. fell a bit short. Aside from that, The Arsonist is a compelling story that weaves in so many differing genres/themes that I highly recommend it if your looking for a unique read!

Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire3.Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #3)

ARC | Started January 7 + Finished on January 8 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ |Beneath The Sugar Sky Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Beneath The Sugar Sky was easily my favorite book of the Wayward Children series so far! The descriptive and whimsical writing really showed McGuire’s growth as an author with this series. When Rini finds herself Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children characters, both new & returning, join Rini on her quest to the peculiar world of Confection, to bring back an old friend. Kade & Christopher are easily my favorite characters of the entire series & not only did this book remind me of that, but their banter + friendship easily made this book one of my favorites! Filled with adventure, a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, magic & mystery, Beneath The Sugar Sky is a fantastic continuation to the Wayward Children Series!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen4.A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

ARC | Started January 5 + Finished on January 13 | Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½ |A Taxonomy Of Love ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The unique format & expansive timeline, made A Taxonomy Of Love a pretty unique YA Contemporary. We follow Spencer from 13-19 as he navigates life + his friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong. Allen really developed the main character Spencer, while bringing so much progression & growth to his character that you can really see by the end of the novel. Throughout the story, Spencer + Hope begin to drift apart when Hope suffers an important loss in her family. Your left wondering if they’ll ever reconnect, while also seeing where their own paths are leading them. I felt however, with the constant jumps in the timeline, characters + story points had uneven development, going from extremely fast + rushed pacing to uneventful & slow moments. That made it difficult to really connect with any of the other characters, aside from a few main ones (hence the 3.5). However, Allen did a fantastic job at weaving in so many themes + developing the atmosphere of her contemporary story over such an expansive timeline!

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira Ahmed5.Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

ARC | Started January 15 + Finished on January 19 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Love, Hate & Other Filters ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters tackles such a relevant + timely issue while also balancing heart-warming moments and chilling/honest ones too! I loved Maya so much, from her passion to follow her dreams of becoming a film director to the strength and courage she builds over the course of the novel. There was one important moment I found that pretty much put the entirety of the novel into focus and that was the importance of Maya’s camera. I found it represented not only a shield for Maya, but also thinking broadly how people tend to view each other lenses (or filters!). Throughout the novel we follow Maya Aziz and her journey to not only understand who she wants to become, but seeing her inspirational journey to follow her dreams and tackle whatever life throws her way!

Fence Issue 1 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad6.Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: 16-year old Nicholas Cox has the heart, but not exactly skill, for fencing. He’s worked from the basics and is eager to win the local tournament (Connecticut Regionals). The win from this competition could earn him a spot into a top school and allow him to receive a scholarship & continue with fencing if he is serious about pursuing it. His competition is none other than  Seiji Katayama, fencing prodigy. This first issue introduces so much from Nicholas’s past to his passion for fencing & the mysterious fencing prodigy. There is so much great development, action and dialogue that will keep you hooked! Its a brilliant start to a new comic series! (Honestly, there’s tons more I discuss in my full reviews that I can’t fully explain in this wrap-up, but I HIGHLY recommend checking out Fence 💙✨🤺)

Fence Issue 2 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad7.Fence #2 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #2 is very much build-up to Nicholas & Seiji’s dynamic when they begin at King’s Row and introduction to new characters on the fencing team. We definitely see the stakes set for not only the team, but Nicholas too (considering we learn there are a limited # of spots for the main team + upcoming championships). Both Issue #1 & #2 introduce characters of color + trans rep. & it does hint at gay rep.! The tension really builds in this issue and similar to Issue #1, will keep you hooked!

Fence Issue 3 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad8.Fence #3 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #3 is easily my favorite issue in the series so far! There is much more character development/background + is a very plot-driven continuation! This issue very much follows Nicholas & not only his daily campus life on King’s Row, but his determination to prove himself before his first match against a classmate. The characters from Issue #2 are getting better developed as is the gay rep. The perfect pacing, development for plotting, characters, and slight twists + turns make Issue #3, such a brilliant addition to the Fence series!

Love Sugar Magic-A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano9.Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano (W/ Cover art by Mirelle Ortega)

Library | Started January 25 + Finished January 27 | Rating:★★★★★  | Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Easily one of the best middle-grade novels I have ever read! Themes of family and friendship, alongside a delightful writing that delivers a sweet and magical tale, Love Sugar Magic was a truly unforgettable read! The story follows Leo Logroño and she comes from a family of bakers, they run the Amor y Azúcar Panadería. She’s always felt left out of the family business + feels her mother + sisters are hiding something, so a day before the Día de los Muertos festival, she sneaks her way into the bakery to see what really goes on (she soon discovers she comes from a family of brujas, who use their powers within the bakery + their treats). Now that her oldest sister Isabel knows, Leo begins to use the powers within her & experiments with the special family recipe book. However as Leo begins to lie about using her abilities to the rest of her family, she soon gets into trouble & must make very important decisions. The magic system is one of my favorite aspects about this novel, it really builds and you see how unique it is for each member of Leo’s family. The plot is perfectly developed, the writing is beautiful, the characters are spectacular, & so much more!! Such a fantastic novel, I highly recommend it!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Latinx YA Book Releases To Add To Your TBR {2018}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

You may have noticed, I never posted one for December. Well, that was mainly because of vacation, but also because as the months passed nearing the end of 2017 when making my monthly wrap-ups, I noticed that I began to lose my enjoyment for making/posting them because I felt like I had to (being a pretty common post in the book-community). While I do enjoy them I felt it was time to change up the review format a bit to add more to make a bit more personal (adding the format of the book + when I started/finished). And I think doing that really brought back my enjoyment for them~

So similar to this one, I may be trying out this new format for the upcoming monthly wrap-ups, but again I’m really liking how this one turned out! 😄✨📚📚💻~ But, feel free to let me know what you think of the new format in the comments!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen ARC Review

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael AllenA Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: January 9, 2017

Pages: 336

Summary:The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . .something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

*Received an ARC from Barnes & Noble B-Fest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Taxonomy Of Love is a plot-driven + complex YA Contemporary that brings such depth to its main characters and weaves in numerous themes of grief, loss, friendship, love and family. The unique format + expansive timeline that unravels, really make Allen’s A Taxonomy Of Love stand out!

What really stayed with me after I finished A Taxonomy Of Love was the writing and how it allowed me to really connect to the main character, Spencer Barton.

Not only was it refreshing to read a YA Contemporary from a male POV, but I’d also never read about a main character with Tourettes before.

A Taxonomy Of Love follows Spencer at 13 up until 19 yrs old as we follow his life and unforgettable friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong.

From their friendship as 13-year olds in middle school, journey through high school, etc. I loved being able to follow these characters through the ups and downs of their life across a wide timeline.

A Taxonomy Of Love really stood out to me because of how its told. Not only through the engaging 1st person POV, but also through the 6-year timeline. For a standalone, I feel that can’t be easy, but Allen executed it in such a way, where it all flowed well and you really see the progression and growth of the main character Spencer.

There are also illustrations of Taxonomies that allow Spencer to make sense of new situations + the world, but also the in-between chapters with letters and messages from Hope. These additions really added more to the story and allowed me to learn a different side to these characters.

The story starts when Spencer meets Hope at 13 when she moves in next door and become friends almost instantly. However misunderstandings arise when its clear they both have feelings for one another but can’t seem to find their way to each other.

Then tragedy strikes Hope and her family when her older sister Janie passes away. We see how they slowly begin to grow apart. Spencer + Hope find their friendship slowly fading away as the years go by. Misunderstandings and misfortune keep them unsure if they’ll ever really reconnect with each other.

Now as to why I rated this book 3.5 stars, my biggest issue was that the time-jumps. It never felt like I got to fully know these characters (aside from Spencer) or feel extremely connected to the story itself because it felt plot points and development would be rushed through. I also felt it dragged particularly through uneventful or average everyday events if that makes sense?

Even when important themes of love, loss and social issues (such as racism) are discussed, the abruptness of the chapters + various time-jumps made it really difficult for me to really feel connected to these important story elements.

As for the diversity represented in this novel, as I mentioned before we have the main character Spencer Barton who has Tourettes + Jayla, Spencer’s girlfriend, who is black. There is also light discussion of mental health, when the passing of Hope’s sister is mentioned and she talks about going to a support group + when Spencer begins medication that helps with his Tourettes. (Though I can’t personally say whether Tourettes was accurately represented, overall it was great to see that represented in YA! + Ablesit language was challenged~)

Not only did I read how Spencer’s Tourettes influenced his life and impacted his confidence (as he mentioned people bullied him when he was younger), but also that friends, such as Hope would give him the patience and support he needed. Throughout the novel its clear that Spencer has friends, family, and people in his life who will support + understand him.

Overall it was also great to see him gain so much confidence in himself and learn to navigate and better understand the complex friendships + relationships in his life, throughout those 6 years. He grew so much as a character and I found myself rooting for him & Hope!

An aspect of this novel that I really loved was the various messages Allen weaved into the story. There’s grief, family, independence and friendship that are such important themes throughout the story as we follow Spencer and Hope’s story. Not only were they portrayed pretty well, but they really stuck with me as I progressed through the story.

There was also illustrations of taxonomies that just add more to the story itself and letters from Hope that really allow her to come to life.

A Taxonomy Of Love is a complex YA Contemporary that spans across a rather big timeline as we follow Spencer + Hope and their complicated, but powerful relationship. Important themes of love, loss, and growth weave their way into the story. Allen’s writing really brings such depth to the main character of Spencer and brings his story to life!

July 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton1. One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

One Italian Summer Full Review

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: May 4, 2017

Pages: 245

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: There was a strong theme of sisterly bonding between the the 3 sisters Milly, Elise & Leonie throughout the whole novel which I loved, as they take a trip to Italy w/ their mother to celebrate a relative’s wedding. There’s also a theme of grief as the girls come to terms with their father’s death. Stainton really captured and kept the themes of sisterly-love + grief throughout the whole novel. However, there is a romance that I felt began to overshadow the plot (since its told through 1st person POV) + the atmosphere of Italy wasn’t quite there and I was hoping for a little more description. Aside from that, it was a pretty enjoyable YA Summer Contemporary!

This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes2. This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

This Is How It Happened Full Review

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Pages: 384

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

Overall Thoughts: Genevieve Larsen comes to terms with her boyfriend Dallas Kade’s death in this YA Contemporary that discusses mental health, family, friendship, acceptance, and the impact of social media/internet! Kade was an up-and-coming singer and his fans mourned for his loss. Gen learns to accept and cope when truths come to light about what happened.While there were some moments of slow pacing + the romance feeling a little rushed, Stokes’s YA Contemporaries always manage to integrate a number of themes and topics into her novels that give them such depth!

The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana3. The Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library Of Fates Full ARC Review

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Pages: 354

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: The Library Of Fates is a perfect YA Fantasy if your looking for a character-driven +thought-provoking tale! When Princess Amarita’s castle is attacked, she goes on a journey to reclaim her kingdom and change her fate! There’s female friendships, a rich mythology that really shines throughout the novel, and little to no romance! The plot kept me surprised with each and every page! While there were a few moments of slow pacing towards the middle + wanting a little more expansion on world/characters, Khorana’s novel was a tale that immersed me from the very beginning!

Lucky In Love by Kasie West4. Lucky In Love by Kasie West

Lucky In Love Full ARC Review

Publisher: Scholastic

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 333

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Maddie’s life changes when she wins the lottery, however she makes some mistakes along the way as she is so overwhelmed with all the money she has! There’s a cute friendship/romance that develops with Seth Nguyen (one of Maddie’s co-workers), discussion on finances/financial struggles, + themes of friendship & family. While some of Maddie’s decisions did frustrate me, this novel is a fun and fast-paced contemporary that will have the pages flying by!

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan5. No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

No More Heroes Full Review

Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing

Release Date: June 27, 2015

Pages: 265

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: No More Heroes is a perfect read if your looking for Urban Fantasy, action, mystery, love superheroes/superpowers, and are looking for a diverse cast of characters! (Seriously there is so much representation ❤ ❤ A majority of the cast are characters of differing ethnicites (Samon, Chinese, Indian, Cambodian + Maori  & characters who identify as aro-ace, gay, genderfluid, have anxiety + ADHD) In the City, we follow 3 teens who have Abilities who find themselves teaming up with Vigilantes (or those who use their Abilities to take down bad guys) as Vigilantes start mysteriously being killed off!  Kan does a fantastic job at building the element of mystery throughout! The world-building is so unique from the setting to the explanation for how the differing Abilities work! There is such a big emphasis on friendship throughout the whole novel + no romance! I did want a little more description/expansion in terms of world+characters, but above all No More Heroes was a unique and fascinating story that has me awaiting a sequel!

Additional Posts + Miscellaneous From This Month:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells Book Review (Originally read in July)

Fire Emblem AwakeningMisc*~ If you didn’t know, I love video games and after so long, I finally got back into playing them again! So, in July what took up a lot of my free time when I wasn’t reading was Fire Emblem Awakening!✨🎮 Its a tactical role-playing game where your a skilled tactician who wakes up from amnesia to find yourself helping out a prince, his sister and their guard in their fantasy kingdom of Ylissie as you defend the kingdom from monsters! I don’t really wanna give too much of the plot away, but yeah this game is tons of fun! I adore it, the characters, plot, world, everything, one of my new favorite video games for sure!! I made it about 1/2 way through the game in July & I’m hoping to finish it this month!😍💖🎉 ~

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton Review

One Italian Summer by Keris StaintonOne Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: May 4, 2017

Pages: 245

Summary: It’s been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie’s dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer’s here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy – but what’s it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms – the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was …

With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again – gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with – or so she thinks. What’s going to happen this time? What’s more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky – Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn’t know how she fits in any more.

Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: One Italian Summer is an emotional YA Contemporary that discusses grief, shows the strong bond between sisters, as they take a trip to Italy for a relative’s wedding!

This book was super difficult to rate, because there were so many great elements to it!
For the most part, the story focused on the sisters (Milly, Elise, and Leonie) and their relationship/dynamic which I loved! I don’t usually see much of that YA!

From the very first page its clear that there’s a strong bond between all 3 of them and that really shows as the story progresses. The beginning of the novel was definitely my favorite. There’s so much great development and set up that made the novel start off very strong!

Additionally, the sisters discuss sex/sex positivity throughout the novel which is something I don’t think I’ve ever read in YA before! Overall it was great for the sisters to have those discussions honestly throughout the novel.

Milly, the middle sister, narrates the story as the girls + their mother head to Italy for their aunt Alice’s wedding. However, grief is felt by the sisters (especially their mother) as its the first time they are returning to Italy without their father.

Throughout the novel, there is a heavy theme of grief as the girls (mainly Milly + their mother), while in Italy are finding it difficult to enjoy their trip and be happy for Alice, while so much of the trip reminds them of Dominic. It added so much to the story to see grief tackled by the sisters + mother in different ways to see how it impacted them/how they were coming to accept his death.

I adored the originality of this story and Stainton did a fantastic job at keeping the plot unique and engaging.

However, in terms of setting and getting the atmosphere of Italy, I wasn’t really getting it. While this novel is very character driven (which was great), setting/atmosphere didn’t feel as developed as I was hoping. (In terms of delivering more/equal development on characters + Italian setting, I personally felt Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato did a much better job)

The writing was good, however I did find the writing to be quite choppy at times. But overall Stainton’s writing really delivered well on a strong theme/delivery of grief and sister bonding.

As the story progresses, its revealed that Milly had a crush on Luke (her cousin Toby’s best friend) and its revealed that there was something that happened between them when they last visited Italy.
While the romance wasn’t necessarily bad, I felt it took up a huge part of the plot in very different places throughout which made it very difficult to get a fully developed story when every other page Milly kept talking about wanting to hook up/be with Luke.

I did enjoy the later 1/4 of book much more as Milly and Luke are able to talk more and finally say whats on their mind, but I really didn’t like how the romance began to over shadow the main plot. It really felt like an uneven balance with the romance/plot in general for me personally.

As for the rest of the story regarding the wedding + the girls enjoying Italy that was great! I wish there was more of that, instead of such a heavy focus on the romance.

Apart from that, I really did like this book and recommend it if your looking for a summer contemporary!

One Italian Summer is a book to read if your looking for a great contemporary that focuses on grief and the strong bond between sisters. While the romance can seem like such a heavy part of the story, the engaging plot and characters make this an enjoyable summer read!

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie Review

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily SkrutskieThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (TASU #1)

Publisher: Flux Books

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi that is set in a fascinating futuristic U.S. with sea monsters and pirates! Wonderful characters and its unique setting will keep you turning the page!

I think I just went into this book with completely different expectations (hyping it up in my head) + based on edits and praise I’d heard, I was personally expecting a completely different story than I got! So sadly, TASU did let me down.
However…
I will absolutely be reading the sequel!! I am still very invested in the story and intrigued to see where the plot goes!

Cassandra (or Cas) Leung is a Reckoner trainer who’s worked with her parents her whole life to understand Reckoners (giant + genetically-engineered sea monsters) and use them to accompany ships and avoid trouble with pirates.

However, when she gets assigned her first solo mission, things go very wrong! She gets captured by pirate queen Santa Elena and is forced to train Elena’s own Reckoner pup or face serious consequences!

What I really loved about this novel was the world! Set in our world, the U.S. is now divided among much larger territories, such as the Northern and Southern Republics of California.

In this futuristic U.S. there are now floating cities, pirates, genetically engineered sea monsters! So many great elements were introduced to this world and that is what really set this sci-fi novel apart from other’s that I’ve read. I just loved how focused it was on the science of this world!

Additionally, I loved the diversity! From the main character Cassandra who is Chinese-American + a f/f relationship that develops!

Aside from that, there’s so much girl power + I loved that this novel had a large cast of female characters! Many, such as the girls on Santa Elena’s ship (& Elena herself) were morally grey and it was clear they had so much depth and complexities to their characters! Above all it was just great to see a large cast of females at the center of this novel!

I also really enjoyed the writing-style! I love reading from 1st-person POV, because we learn so much more about the protagonist from seeing the world and everything that encompasses it from their eyes and that really allowed me to connect with Cas along the way as she finds her strength to prove herself as she trains a Reckoner pup for Santa Elena!

Through the writing (perhaps this is just me) it always felt like I was in a piratey-sci-fi! Skrutskie did a fantastic job at creating the atmosphere that really made you feel like you were out at sea with sea monsters, Cas and the crew!!

This was very character-driven story which I really loved too! As the story progressed, I could see Cas changing and growing as she spent time on the ship.

Now as to why my rating is rather low…I was expecting a lot more action and from my personal reading experience I didn’t really get much from the plot, aside from months passing by with Cas training with the Reckoner and some interactions here & there with the crew. Personally I just wanted more :/

Additionally, I wanted more development from the world. While it was discussed in a broad sense, it would have been great to get a more in-depth look at the politics, etc. of this unique setting!

As mentioned above, just because of my personal expectations, I was a little let down and did feel the pacing was rather slow at points (which did take me out of the story).

Regardless…

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi which delivers a wholly unique story with pirates and sea monsters, fascinating characters, and a complex world that will immerse you from page 1!

May 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 7

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amnia’s Voice Full Review

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Pages: 208

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: This book was incredible from the writing, to plot & characters! Khan weaves in so many themes such as family, friendship, and identity! Following Amina’s journey through middle school, she begins to question as people and things around her begin to change. This novel has so many different and complex layers, that anyone can find an aspect of Amina’s Voice to relate to! Highly recommend this gem of a novel!

Another Castle Grimoire2.Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler + Paulina Ganucheau

Another Castle: Grimoire Full Review

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Pages: 152

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Another Castle: Grimoire is a graphic novel that puts clever twists+spins on classic fairy tale tropes! Following Princess Misty, she sets forth to Grimoire to defeat Badlug and keep her kingdom safe. While the story is a little slow paced, its filled with action and adventure! The art is bright and colorful too! There’s a big emphasis on friendship and its filled with empowering female characters!

Shadow Run  Cover Reveal3.Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller (Kaitan Chronicles #1)

Shadow Run Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Pages: 400

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Filled with action + adventure and a diverse cast of characters, you’ll be immersed in Shadow Run as you follow Captain Qole and Prince Nev and as they learn more about “Shadow” and how it impacts their world. I adored the characters so much! While I definitely wanted a little faster pacing + more world-building/development, this book is one I recommend if you’re looking to get into Sci-Fi! It’s very character driven and above all, a fun story! Can’t wait for Book 2!

Teenage model in hear shaped glasses laughing4.I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

I Believe In A Thing Called Love Full ARC Review

Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (BYR)

Release Date:May 30, 2017

Pages: 336

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: A delightful YA Contemporary with the perfect blend of humor, romance, and has themes of family and friendship weaved throughout. Told through 1st person POV, you follow Desi Lee as she creates a plan with the help of K-Dramas to help her find love. 

Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka5.Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka {Flying Witch #1}

Flying Witch Volume 1 Full Review

Publisher: Vertical Comics

Release Date: March 8, 2017

Pages: 160

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A slow paced manga that follows Makato as she continues her training to become a witch. The story is very character driven and the story while it has its quiet magical elements, follows a “slice of life” approach. I did want more plot-wise, but above all this is a lovely manga! Highly recommend!

when-dimple-met-rishi-cover-reveal6.When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi Full ARC Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Pages: 380

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Balancing humor with more serious and heartfelt moments, When Dimple Met Rishi is a perfect summer contemporary! Its very character driven, and the magic & spirit of first love is captured through 3rd person POV as you follow Dimple and Rishi who have been set up in an arranged marriage. They have differing views of life and love, but throughout the story their relationship slowly develops and they learn more about themselves and each other along the way!

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren7.The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said Full Review

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Pages: 320

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Ben and Lucy have lost Trixie (a dear sister + friend). Told through dual POV, you follow them as almost a year has passed since Trixie’s death and the complex emotions that’s still with them and how they are coping. Biren does a fantastic job with developing the emotional complexity of her characters and its present all throughout the story. Slow pacing and difficult character decisions made this novel a little disappointing. However, with strong elements in terms of character and development, this novel is very unique in its discussion of grief. 

Additional Posts From This Month:

May 2017 Book Releases I’m Looking Forward To

Literary Listens: Publishers & Podcasts

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin Cover Reveal

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren Review

The Last Thing You Said by Sara BirenThe Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Last Thing You Said follows Lucy and Ben over the course of the summer as they continue to grieve over the death of a loved one. The complex emotions that weave throughout the novel, drive the story which follows two journeys of grief, loss, and acceptance in this YA Contemporary.

This was a very difficult book to rate, because it had strong elements that really made it stand out from other YA Contemporaries and above all aspects that made it a good story in general, however there were elements which disappointed me, that just couldn’t allow me to rate it any higher.

Biren does a fantastic job at developing and presenting deep and emotional complexity in her characters (clearly shown through Ben & Lucy POV’s). With how she executed her st person POV’s, I will definitely be interested to read more of her future works.

Told through 1st person, they felt so real I could sympathize with their differing stages of grief over their loss of Trixie. To Ben, she was a beloved sister and to Lucy, she was a dear best friend.

Seeing how this loss impacted them so differently was unique to see in a YA Contemporary and above all, they were so developed and it was interesting to read their story unfold as they come to terms with it being almost a year since Trixie’s passing.

Biren introduces such supportive friends and family helping the characters (especially Lucy) in coming to terms with the loss.

Lucy hasn’t spoken to Ben since Trixie died, so she still struggles with the hurt and grief she still has for her best friend, while also feeling she will never sort things out with Ben (who was also her long-time crush).

However, since then Lucy has come to know Hannah and the 2 are inseparable. Hannah was completely understanding of Lucy’s loss and no matter what, always made an effort to help her and just be there when she needed someone.

Then there is Simon, a new guy who rents a house with his mother next door to Lucy to stay for the summer and when the two quickly connect, he also is very understanding and supportive as Lucy grieves. He really likes Lucy and wants to help her move past her feelings for Ben, above all he was a great character to read about.

Seeing Hannah, Simon, and Lucy’s parents give her the time and space she needed was incredible to read. It was also great to read how much they also just wanted to help her gather the strength to move on.

Then there’s Ben, who is going through the grief much differently than Lucy. He’s drinking, out partying, and finding girlfriend after girlfriend.

While it added so much depth to the story exploring and expanding on grief and loss from differing characters, I felt the dual POV really slowed the story down and I did have problems with Ben’s POV.

Above all, reading from his POV made me really dislike his character more and more as the story went on. Even though he acknowledged his actions and how he treated people  poorly throughout multiple chapters, he really didn’t change at all throughout the novel and that was pretty disappointing.

Its revealed he and Lucy were together in the past for a short while, but got into an argument shortly after Trixie died and he pushed her away.

Aside from that, it never felt like he appreciated or acknowledged the pain/strain of certain relationships like his father who was also grieving (at least in the beginning), current girlfriend, or Lucy when he knew why he was feeling so upset and frustrated all the time. Above all it just didn’t seem like he ever wanted to make an effort for anyone else and only cared how things would benefit himself.

As I mentioned above, he does mend the relationships as the story progresses, but not till very later on in the novel and that really made this novel hard to get through. They were very understanding and it just didn’t seem like he cared. So while his POV really shows a different side of the impact of Trixie’s death, moments of his POV really dragged and ruined the story for me.

As for additional elements I really loved about The Last Thing You Said, Biren shows an array of positive role models from friends to parents that help/show support for Lucy and Ben as they grieve Trixies loss.

The formatting and presentation of the book also made it stand out! The text of the novel is purple and aside from that, it’s also divided into 4 parts (May-August), features illustrations of a lake + forest in between chapters, and inspirational quotes. Overall I really loved how the book was presented!

The dual POV really expands not only on how the grief impacts people differently, but in general delivers a unique take on an emotional summer contemporary!

The Last Thing You Said is an enjoyable summer contemporary that really tackles grief in an honest and unique way. While the pacing and some character decisions make it slow to get through at points, the story above all follows the impactful and emotional journey of grief and acceptance.