Review: Famous in a Small Town

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Famous in a Small Town by: Emma Mills

My Rating: 4 Stars

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Mention of car accident, mention of prison, mention of fatal accident, and taking credit for someone else’s work.

Sophie and her friends are preparing to enjoy their summer break. Much to the group’s surprise a new boy August moves in. August is the brother of Sophie’s neighbor. While working Sophie overhears her band teacher talking about the upcoming fundraiser. The teacher mentions that they will likely not be able raise enough money to participate in The Rose Parade. Sophie takes action into her own hands and decides to get Megan Pleasant to come back and perform. Only Megan has sworn never to return home. 

Emma Mills has been on my radar since I enjoyed This Adventure Ends. I was hesitant when I heard about Famous in a Small Town. Ultimately I gave in to my curiosity. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! This book is written in first person following Sophie’s point of view. There are flashbacks, text messages, online articles, and social media posts.

There’s something about reading an Emma Mills book. It’s like hugging a blanket. You know it’ll be fluffy and have a huge emphasis on friendship. It’s comforting. And no surprise this is what was present in Famous in a Small Town. 

I absolutely adored the friendship! Sophie has a large friend group and all of them get along with each other. Their conversations were also so funny! As well as relatable. Each character was unique and original. It was even better when August joined the friend group. 

I really enjoyed reading about Sophie’s growth! And her character in general. She wasn’t perfect and she knew that. Sophie genuinely wanted to work on herself and become a better person. She was sweet and caring. It’s a nice change to read about those kinds of characters.

I also really liked August’s nieces! They were so cute! And a delight to read about. I particularly enjoyed it when Sophie babysat them. Sophie would do anything to keep them happy. And wasn’t afraid to act a bit goofy in the process.

I found Famous in a Small Town to be the more romance oriented than This Adventure Ends. Early on Sophie realizes she has a crush on August and asks him out. He politely refuses and asks that the two remain friends. I really enjoyed reading about their relationship!

August was such a sweet character. I actually expected him to be brooding. And in a way he was. But not exactly. Through Sophie and her friend group, as well as his brother August came out of his shell. I really enjoyed reading about his character development!

I was really surprised about the mystery aspect! The whole Megan Pleasant situation was a bit bizarre in the beginning. I didn’t think much off it. Then it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. There is another mystery aspect that was also quite surprising. I liked how each mystery was handled.

My only problem with Famous in a Small Town was how Sophie’s parents weren’t really present. This isn’t that large off an issue and it didn’t effect my rating. I just would’ve preferred for them to be more present.

Overall I really enjoyed this! Highly recommend.    

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Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

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A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares 

By: Krystal Sutherland and Tara Sands (Narrator) 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Death, mention of murder’s, physical violence, mention of war, mention of kidnapping, suicide attempt, mention of critically injured animal, and abusive parent.

The Solar family has been cursed by death. During their grandfather’s war days, he met death. Not just once but many times. Death cursed the Solar family to die from a fear. Hence why Esther Solar made a list of fears. Then she meets Jonah, a childhood friend. Much to her surprise he robs her. The two meet again with Jonah promising to help Esther conquer her list.

In 2016 Sutherland released her debut. I didn’t much care for it. I decided to check out this book because the synopsis sounded good. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

The book is written in third person omniscient following Esther and flashbacks of her grandfather with death. There is one scene that is narrated from Death’s point of view. The chapters are titled based off a fear of Esther’s. Some chapters just have titles that don’t pertain to Esther’s list.

I’m really happy that I gave this book a shot! It was good and I enjoyed the magical realism aspect a lot. Even the family and friendship dynamics. I also felt that the author excelled at portraying mental health.

I liked Esther! She was a great character. I especially loved her growth and that she ended up loving herself. Esther’s list of fears is based on things she’s seen on tv and heard stories about. The list was quite interesting. And you can honestly fear most of it. By the end she did love and acknowledge every aspect of herself. 

I liked Eugene a lot. He is Esther’s twin. He spends a lot of his time trying to convince Esther that the curse isn’t real. That their family has mental illnesses. The two have a really close bond. And it was nice to read about.

Esther doesn’t have the best relationship with her parents. Her father never leaves their basement. There’s a bathroom and food gets brought down. Meanwhile their mother who used to be so strong isn’t anymore. Their mother spends her time gambling. Her top concern is their money. Esther is torn up over her parents and doesn’t know what to do.

Hephzibah is Esther’s best friend. The two of them used to be friends with Jonah and met each other in school. Esther has never heard Hephzibah speak. The two communicate in sign language and text messages. I enjoyed their friendship! 

Jonah and Esther of course didn’t have a good introduction. When Esther sees him again she punches him. Which was justified. Things happen and the two come to an agreement. Their relationship was so cute! I really enjoyed the two of them tackling the list. Jonah and Esther were rocks for each other. They really helped each other grow. And they were such a cute couple! 

Death was such a nice connection! I enjoyed reading the flashbacks with him and their grandfather. It was a nice touch of magical realism. And brought the grandfather as a character. In present day the grandfather is dying. There were a lot of good quotes with their conversations. And the topic of death was tackled in such an interesting manner.

I especially liked that at the end all the characters are still struggling with their mental health. Eugene and Esther decide to go get therapy. Yay for positive therapy rep! Their family is still struggling. The relationship to one-another makes them so strong. Jonah doesn’t just magically cure Esther. She is still working on it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! I highly recommend.   

Review: Moxie

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Moxie by: Jennifer Mathieu

My Rating: 4 Stars

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Rape, blackmailing, harassment, bullying, slut shaming, mention of accident, sexism, misogyny, and mention of death.

Vivian is used to everything. She’s used to behaviour of the boys. Used to all the sexist jokes, and the boy being able to get away with everything. Until Lucy transfers. Lucy is the new girl and the latest victim of Mitchell’s harassment. Viv puts her foot down. Why should she and the rest of the girls have to deal with this?! Viv using inspiration from her mother’s Riot Grrl days creates Moxie. A zine for all the females. A revolution forms. But can they hold out against the school board and most of the male population?

I had seen Moxie on Goodreads and Twitter. I didn’t care much for the synopsis. I went to the bookstore and saw it on the shelves. Out of curiosity I picked it up. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

The book is written in first person limited following Vivian. There are chapter numbers. And pictures of the zines that she makes. Which could sometimes take about three pages.

I’m really surprised that I was able to enjoy it! The synopsis read like one of those feminist books, that don’t turn out that good. I can happily say that I was wrong! What I appreciated the most was the diversity! Some feminist books are actually white feminism in disguise. Which was not the case here. There were WOC and some LGBTQIA characters. And all were done so well!

I really liked Viv! Her journey through creating Moxie was incredible. I loved that she decided to take a stand for the sake off helping her fellow women. This really is an empowering book about fantastic female friendships!

Claudia is Viv’s best friend. The two have done everything together since they were children. Their friendship is tested once the Moxie zines start coming out. Claudia like Viv has gotten used to the system. She’s not quite a fan of it being questioned. Of course Claudia doesn’t like the system or the general treatment, but she’s used to it. This is partly why Claudia didn’t like Lucy in the beginning. Lucy questioned everything and where she came from things were better. She does warm up to Lucy. And makes up with Viv.

Lucy was such a fun character! It was nice to read about her observations on how odd the school was. She was alone in the beginning, but Moxie brought Viv and her together. Lucy and Claudia were on rocky terms in the beginning. The two do become good friends.

Even the typical blonde cheerleader played a huge role. Viv and every other female were under the impression that Emma had a lot to gain from the system. Partly because she was pretty and didn’t seem to mind the status quo. Emma turns out to be so much more! I really appreciated how the author handled women.  

I liked Viv’s relationship with her family! Her grandparents were very sweet. And her mother served for the inspiration of Moxie. Her mother’s past was so cool and interesting! I love that she fought for the things she loved.

Her and Viv do get into a bit of a rough spot. Her mother’s new boyfriend plays a huge role in this. As Viv felt that her mother was changing because of said boyfriend. The two make up when Viv starts seeking her mothers advice. Viv also felt that her family wouldn’t support her on Moxie. Much to her surprise they did and were proud of her.

Viv’s crush Seth also played a huge role, outside of the love interest. Seth actually caught Viv when she put out the first zine. He decided to keep it a secret. And found out cool. He became her go to person for occasional advice. There was a slow burn romance between the two which I liked!

If it wasn’t obvious with the trigger warnings this book was hard to read. There are a lot of hard subjects brought up. And while I think they were dealt with properly, it didn’t make it any easier.

It’s not just the male student body that sucked, it was even the female teachers. The school board and the mentality of the town. The behaviour of these characters truly disgusted me. I spent a lot of my time reading furious at all the things that happened. Which I’m assuming was the author’s intention. Kudos to the author.

I also want to point out that I never felt that Moxie drove away male allies. Towards the end of the book the girls team up for a Moxie walkout. Seth and some of his male friends join this walkout in solidarity of the girls’. I thought that this was really powerful! Don’t believe what Kirkus says.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this! I highly recommend.       

Review: Here Lies Daniel Tate

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Here Lies Daniel Tate by: Cristin Terrill

My Rating: 5 Stars

When ten-year-old Daniel Tate went missing from one of California’s most elite communities, he left no trace. He simply vanished.

Six years later, when he resurfaces on a snowy street in Vancouver, he’s no longer the same boy. His sandy hair is darker, the freckles are gone, and he’s initially too traumatized to speak, but he’s alive. His overjoyed family brings him home to a world of luxury and comfort he can barely remember. In time, they assure him, he’ll recover his memories; all that matters now is they’re together again.

It’s perfect. A miracle. Except for one thing.

He isn’t Daniel Tate.

He’s a petty con artist who accidentally stumbled into the scam of a lifetime, and he soon learns he’s not the only one in the Tate household with something to hide. The family has as many secrets as they have millions in the bank, and one of them might be ready to kill to keep the worst one buried.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Murder, mention of abusive parent, neglectant parent, self-harm to create a birth mark, drug addiction, overdose, mention of cheating, mention of divorce, incest, blackmailing, and physical violence.

This was not how it was supposed to go. It should’ve been so easy. Pretend to be some recently found rich kid and fit in. He didn’t expect all the problems that come with the Tate name. But hey it’s worth it. He has a family, access to school and other necessities. The cherry on top is that the Tate’s are rich. How long could he keep the act up? What if the killer came for him?

I have read the author’s debut All Our Yesterday’s and thoroughly enjoyed it! When I heard that she was writing a mystery I didn’t hesitate to add it. I am happy to say that I loved it!

Here Lies Daniel Tate is written in first person limited following our main character. There aren’t any chapters. It just starts and ends. You don’t know the name of the main character. He never mentions it. Which worked really well seeing as he is an unreliable narrator.

Our main character has been pulling cons for years. He gets into a foster care system temporarily and then leaves. It’s just a cycle. Of course he doesn’t want to be found, so he never reveals his name. Hence the running.

The book begins with him doing just that. Except it doesn’t quite work out. Whilst running away one of the other children notice him. And tell the people in charge. Out of desperation, he looks into a missing children database. On there Daniel Tate’s information is recorded. Thus he pretends to be Daniel. And then the whole mess begins.

I was really impressed by this book! I didn’t know that the author would be so good at writing mysteries. I truly hope she writes more. I saw nothing coming! And let me tell you there are a lot of reveals. In order to maintain the appearance of Daniel, our main character does some digging into the Tate’s secrets. And there were so many. I also really liked how there weren’t any chapters. It was a unique reading experience.

Once they hear that their brother is alive Lexi and Patrick (the eldest siblings) rush to pick him up. Nichalos is in shock that his brother was even found. And Mia is just happy to have another family member. She was a baby when Daniel disappeared. Their mother seems very cold. And Daniel’s father is in jail, so he can’t visit him. A childhood friend of Daniel’s does also email him.

The FBI get involved in hopes of finding Daniel’s kidnappers. The school board is also informed of Daniel’s mental state and keeps on eye on him. He is assigned a counselor, who he has to report to.

I actually liked our main character! While everything he does is questionable, all in all he just wanted to belong. And a place to call home. It was really something to read about his attempts to become Daniel. There are vague hints into his real life as a child. But nothing concrete. Just enough to keep you guessing. 

I loved the main character’s relationship with Mia! She was so sweet and pure. Like the only one in the family with good intentions. Mia couldn’t walk that much. She had some problem, that the Tate’s say she was born with. I don’t remember the name anymore. If anyone else does please mention in the comments! And I’ll mention you in the review.

Patrick wasn’t home that much. He actually lived on his own somewhere else. Though he was there when our main character had to meet with the FBI. Patrick was a lawyer. Lexi also has her own apartment, but upon the return of her brother she stays in her family home frequently. Lexi was also fantastic! Really great sister. Patrick was too, when he visited.

Our main characters relationship with the Tate’s mother was complicated. She left all the mothering to Lexi or the maid. Barely existed her room to even say hello. Our main character feels like she knows that he’s not actually Daniel. But for whatever reason does nothing about it. Unless you count avoiding him.

The relationship with Nicholas was also very rocky. See Nicholas and Daniel never got along. Of course our main character doesn’t know about this, and constantly screws up in conversations with Nicholas. Hence how Nicholas figures out that he isn’t Daniel. He does threaten to do something about it. But it would be pointless. At this point our main character wants to do some digging and uncover the whole mystery. Thus the two teamed up.

I also liked Nicholas! Especially his boyfriend. He had a no-nonsense attitude which I loved. Our main character also has a love interest. Whose name is Ren (correct me if I’m wrong). And I’m pretty sure she was Japanese. They were so cute together! I really liked the slow burn romance.

The reveals were something. If you think about it some of them were obvious. Most of them weren’t. Specifically what happened to Daniel. I didn’t consider it would be those characters. I didn’t think they had a motive. Turns out they did. It was a bitter sweet ending. And I can honestly say that this book will stay with me.

Overall I loved this! I highly recommend.                

Review: One of Us Is Lying

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One of Us Is Lying by: Karen M. Manus 

Audible Narrators: Kim Mai Guest , MacLeod Andrews, Shannon McManus, and Robbie Daymond 

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Suicide, mention of cheating, physical violence, blackmail using a character’s sexual orientation, homophobia, drug addiction, slut shaming, bullying, controlling relationship, and bad representation of mental illness. 

I read One of Us Is Lying a little over a year ago. In that time I’ve been thinking a lot about this book. I’ve come to realize that all those problems other people had with it, I did as well. I guess writing trigger warning’s in my reviews has been a part of it as well. Also I think some of the charm has worn off and I’ve managed to forget quite a bit. That’s not really helpful for mysteries let alone this review.

Anyways let’s get to it! This follows four first person point of views. There’s a full cast for the audiobook. There are tumblr and blog posts. During detention the main characters are with Simon, the school’s resident Gossip Girl. Simon has a severe peanut allergy. While their teacher is off to do something, Simon starts to have convulsions. Unable to find an epipen Simon is rushed to the hospital. It is revealed the next day that Simon died.

The four main characters are now suspects in the murder. On Simon’s blog there are posts outing each of the main character’s secrets come out to the whole school. The four face isolation and bullying once each of their secrets are out in the open. After all of this they all decide to team up. Thinking the real killer is still out there to get them.

The title is actually wrong as every character in this book are hiding something. I found most of the story to be enjoyable! I liked the character’s growth and relationships to one-another. My favourite was definitely Addy! Her character growth was amazing. Below I’ll detail each of the character’s secrets, family, and such.

Bronwyn: Half Mexican is the ‘Smart One’. She’s a hard worker. And does well in all her studies. Well except for the one time she cheated of course. Voila big secret! Due to stress, wanting to live up to her families expectations, and being half POC. She’s got a good relationship with her family. Romantic love interest is Nate. 

Nate: His mother abandoned him, his father is an alcoholic, and on the side he’s a drug dealer. Earning him his reputation at school. He’s the biggest suspect due to this. Of course his big secret is his family life and that he still deals. Romantic love interest is Bronwyn. They were surprisingly cute together!

Cooper: Extremely popular, good looking, and an athlete. Has a beautiful girlfriend. Best friend is Addy’s boyfriend Jake. Secretly he’s gay and doesn’t want people to know. The town is quite homophobic and so is his father. Unfortunately this is outed too. Note that he wasn’t out of the closet. He has a boyfriend whose a model.

Addy: Pretty, popular, and is Jake’s girlfriend. Although she hasn’t always been faithful. She cheated on Jake with Ty. Who she gets along with better. Her mother has made her believe that Addy needs a man in her life. Otherwise she’s useless. Her sister believes otherwise and is in the middle of a divorce. Once she gets outed she get’s bullied and slut shamed. Addy remains single in the end. And she and her sister move in together. Her character development was suburb!

The author really excels at contemporary! I really liked all the characters and their friendship. It takes a really long time for the mystery to come in. The characters kept me engaged! Good job on the author’s part.

The mystery part is a bit lacking. As it was Simon who had depression, and committed suicide. Simon had Jake and another girl (whose name I’ve forgotten) frame the four main characters for his death. Simon started to get badly influenced by forums that liked school shooters. He became obsessed and apparently thought it would a fantastic idea to frame some people for his ‘Murder’. Nate’s mother is also bipolar and comes back after taking medication that works for her.

I do feel that the author doesn’t handle mental illness well. At the time I felt Simon’s motivations made sense. It fit his character. He was really dramatic. And it is completely possible to get bad influences. But as I’ve found out this year this is a common trope in thrillers. And that’s just awful. If it weren’t for those things I probably would’ve rated it higher.

Overall I did still enjoyed a majority of this book! I would still recommend but please read trigger warning’s first.       

Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

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Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by: Julie Israel

My Rating: 4 Stars

Dear You,

Brevity is the only way to deliver a sting, so here goes—

I’ve been thinking about what you said and I’ve decided that you’re right: It would be better for both of us this way…

Sixty-five days after the death of her older sister, Juniper Lemon discovers the break-up letter addressed to “You” Camilla wrote the day she died. Juniper is shocked—she knew nothing of her sister’s relationship, and now the hole Camilla left in her life feels that much bigger. She’s determined to uncover You’s identity and deliver Camie’s letter. Maybe, just maybe, that would help fill the sister-shaped void Camilla left behind.

But what Juniper doesn’t expect is that the search for You will lead to learning other people’s secrets: private crushes, shames, fears—or that these secrets will connect her to classmates she never thought to reach out to before. Classmates like the destructive but strangely magnetic Brand Sayers.

The biggest surprise? Wading through everyone else’s problems may be just what Juni needs to make peace with her own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning: Abusive parent, drug addiction, mention of death, graphic mention of car accident, suicide attempt, physical violence, bullying, grief, mention of attempted rape, and neglectant parent (got better at the end).

 A few months prior to Juniper and her sister Camilla were in a car accident. Juniper survived with some injuries. Whereas Camilla died. Juniper is still recovering from the loss. Summer has passed and school is going to began soon. After losing Camilla, Juniper also lost her best friend. There’s been a rift between them since the accident. And now Juniper will be attending school without her sister and the support of her best friend Lauren. 

Upon arriving home after registration Juniper finds a mysterious letter. It’s written by her sister addressed to ‘You’. Juniper is shocked. Juniper told everything to Camilla. Here was proof that Camilla didn’t. Thus begins Juniper’s hunt for ‘You’. 

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index had been circling GR for a few weeks last year. I dismissed it at first, as the cover lead me to believe it was a memoir. After seeing it for so many days I read the synopsis. Was surprised to find out that it was a YA book. Out of sheer curiosity I read a sample. I was blown away! And didn’t hesitate to get myself a copy! I am happy to say that I really enjoyed it!

The story is written in first person following Juniper’s point of view. There are a table of contents titled ‘Days Without Her’. Juniper’s index card numbers served as the chapter numbers. There are text message’s, emails, essay papers, index cards, diary like entries, and flashbacks. 

What a refreshing read! I found this so different from you’re typical contemporaries. In regards to the plot, the characters, and the romance. It really becomes clear once you finish it.

I really liked Juniper’s character! Her grief regarding Camilla was so well written. It was easy follow her throughout the book. Israel really captured her emotions and thoughts from the very first page. I felt everything Juniper felt. That’s how good it was written.

As a request from her sister Juniper has index cards in which she records something she’s happy about each day. This becomes difficult after Camilla’s death. But Juniper still does so. Juniper miss places one of her index cards and begins to worry. She decides to check the garbage at her school for the next few days.

Aside from finding typical garbage, Juniper finds some of her classmates secrets. The first thing she find’s is a suicide note from Kody. After some thought Juniper decides to befriend Kody and stop her from committing suicide. She also befriend’s Nate the new kid, Sponge (real name Lawrence) who seems to know everything, Brand the delinquent who is seemingly helping her, and Angela an art nerd.

The friendships were done so well! I really liked all off these characters. And they actually all got along. I do think that Juniper’s friend making was questionable, but they were all good for each other. Kody and Juniper bonded over a book series. Angela and Nate were nice to everybody. Sponge was pretty good considering he didn’t say much. Brand was surprisingly insight for Juniper’s situation. They all supported each other and it was great. Now this is how you write good friendship’s.

Juniper’s relationship with her family was complicated. Her father was active in her life and supported her. On the other hand Juniper’s mother was never there. As she was grieving she remained in her room and barely participated in family functions. She did get better and actually became a part of Juniper’s life. But it was towards the end of the book.

Like most contemporaries there is a bully whose name is Morgan. Now Morgan takes a lot of joy off mentioning that Camilla is dead. The two didn’t get along while Camilla was alive. I do find it kind of unnecessary for the insert bully. But at the same time I didn’t care for Morgan’s backstory. Some people are just mean and don’t have a particular reason for it let alone a tragic backstory.

Please be aware that the two get into physical fights. With Morgan always provoking Juniper and Juniper in turn hitting her. I don’t agree with Juniper hitting Morgan, but she seriously should’ve learned the first time not to mention Camilla in such a rude manner.

I liked Brand and Juniper’s romance! They did start off as friends of sort. And he was really nice to her. The two made a good couple in the beginning. They also supported each other and called out one-another’s faults.

I thoroughly enjoyed Juniper’s character development! She start off annoyingly noisy. I really don’t approve off a lot of her methods. But they were coming from a good place. It is implied from the flashbacks that Juniper has always been like this. Her need to ‘fix’ people. Through her relationships she really begins to grow and let go off bad habits. She decides that Camilla will always be apart of her and stops using the index cards. So that she can actually live her life. 

I was also really happy about the end events! I liked that Juniper and Lauren were starting to make-up. That they still cared for each other. Lauren’s collage board was brilliant and touching! Even Juniper’s mom coming to her aid. It was sweet. 

My only problem was that Juniper never found out who ‘You’ was. It really took away so much from the story. As that was Juniper’s main goal and motivation. In a way it did make sense but I wanted a bit more closure.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I highly recommend it.      

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by: Tahereh Mafi

My Rating: 4 Stars

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Violence, bullying, harassment, xenophobia, Islamophobia, discrimination, mention of divorce, mention of wars, mention of death and car accident, racism, blackmailing, and invasion of privacy via technology. 

A Very Large Expanse of Sea was read for The Dream Thieves: Badass Broads.

When I had first heard about this book I didn’t care. I’d tried reading some of the author’s previous works and they didn’t work for me. After reading all the rave reviews I caved in and gave it a shot. I am happy that I did so!

Shirin has spent most of her life moving from one school to another. She hasn’t stayed at one school long enough to make lasting friendship’s. With every move her parents try to put her in a better school, ideally make more money, and move into a better house. The latest move is no different. Another high school with mostly white people.

Shirin has been spending most of the schools’ she goes to putting up walls. She doesn’t talk to people and people don’t talk to her. Her hijab seems to be a large neon ‘Avoid this person’ sign. Much to Shirin’s surprise, her lab partner Ocean becomes her friend. And even more shocking they start to become more than that. Throughout the story Shirin starts to realize she may have been wrong about people.

Before starting A Very Large Expanse of Sea I didn’t read many reviews. I went into it with little to no knowledge but decently high expectations. It really surprised me! The book is written in first person following Shirin. It’s like Shirin is talking to you. Which I thought worked for the story. It’s really amazing how many times Mafi can change her writing style. There are some text messages, AIM messages, and chapter numbers. It takes place one year after the 9/11. The title of the book is also mentioned in the story.

Shirin was one of the best parts of this book! I found her so relatable, mature, and surprisingly funny. Seriously some of the things she says were on point and hilarious. Also completely vulnerable. Normally the character that puts up a lot of walls doesn’t admit they are vulnerable. Shirin on the other hand mentions so many times that she is vulnerable but wishes she wasn’t. Which I found to be rather refreshing.

Shirin and her brother Navid are born and breed American’s. Their parents are Iranian immigrants. There was quite a bit of mention about Persian culture. Such as the language and the food. Even some of the traditions. They are also Muslim’s. Islam play a large part in the story. As a Muslim I found the Islam rep to be amazing! Shirin also has a lot to say about wearing the hijab. Such as why she wear’s it and her views on the hijab. I also wear the hijab so I loved everything she had to say! Some of it brought tears to my eyes, and made me respect Shirin even more.

I really enjoyed reading about Shirin’s relationship with her family! Navid was such a sweetheart. And their parents were supportive in their own way. What really stood out to me was how much Shirin and her family love their religion and culture. Which is a rarity to read about.

Shirin has many interests. Breakdancing, fashion, books, tv, and music. These interests are always brought up throughout the book without being too in your face. Every tiny detail regarding Shirin as a person is weaved into the story effectively. 

I really liked all the diversity in this book! Navid has dyslexia. It’s treated like a part of him not something to ashamed off. Their breakdancing crew also has some diverse members. Bijan is gay and Middle Eastern. Not quite sure where exactly he’s from. Jacobi is black. Carlos I think is Hispanic. I’m not a 100 percent positive. It’s not really mentioned. But I have a feeling he’s not white either. 

I had so much fun reading about breakdancing! This is actually the first time I’ve read about the topic in a book. And I have to say that I did actually learn quite a bit. The competitions were the best to read about though. The relationship the crew had with one-another was also so cute!

Ocean really surprised me! I did not expect to like him as much as I did. He was really nice and of course due to his privilege a bit oblivious. I really liked that Shirin and Ocean were friends first then an actual romance formed. Rather than some insta-love. I loved their conversations! They were so cute together! 

Ocean as well as other characters allow Shirin to grow. And understand that Shirin was doing exactly what people did to her. Stereotyping everyone around her. Shirin herself allows Ocean to realize his privilege and allowed him to grow into himself more.

My favourite part about their relationship was that they were more than their relationship. Shirin still keeps up her breakdancing, and Ocean still stays within the status quo. Sometimes I find that when the romance takes a center stage the characters are just demoted to dating status. It was nice that it wasn’t the case here.   

Mafi did an excellent job with the ramifications off Shirin and Ocean’s relationship. There is a large focus on politic’s as well as the high school social dynamics. The school, neighbors, teachers, parents, and students all react to their relationship in different ways. Peer pressure is brought up, even feeling powerless to an adult. Each aspect was done wonderfully! And with great care.

I do have some issues. I wish that the Mr. Jordan situation was handled a bit better. And I do agree that some things were pushed off to the side when Ocean and Shirin started dating. Also the dating situation may make a few Muslims uncomfortable. I was perfectly okay with it. But I know others won’t be. I also wish that Amna would’ve been mentioned at the end. Ocean was as the two were spending a lot of time together at the end. But Amna isn’t. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed A Very Large Expanse of Sea! I highly recommend it!