Just One Wish: A Book Review

Book: Just One Wish

Author/Authoress: Janette Rallison

Just One Wish

Cover:2/5

No. Just no. I don’t like this cover at all. Maybe it’s because it’s so boring. Nah, that’s not it. It’s because the cover was purposely made boring. It’s hard to tell what the MC looks like because the author never said what she looked like. Author’s sometimes do stuff like this  because they want us readers to subconsciously project ourselves into the main character’s role. And it’s a nice idea and all – in theory.

In practice I find it really annoying. I’d rather have a character with a little bit of a description (but that does not mean huge tracts of poetry in an ode to her beauty) because otherwise I automatically keep changing the main character’s looks. And so the MC ends up constantly changing like Aphrodite’s. Or like a kaleidoscope. And believe me that’s annoying. As soon as the character does something new in the book, I have to adjust what I think the character looks like so I can fit in her looks with my preconceptions.

Sometimes I don’t even bother. I just let them look like huge question marks in my head. But believe me, it’s  hard to imagine a visual scene when you have no main character.

Plot:4/5

Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman knows about the power of positive thinking. With a little brother who has cancer, it’s all she ever hears about. And in order to help Jeremy, she will go to the ends of the earth (or at least as far as Hollywood) to help him believe he can survive his upcoming surgery.

But Annika’s plan to convince Jeremy that a magic genie will grant him any wish throws her a curveball when he unexpectedly wishes that his television idol would visit him. Annika suddenly finds herself in the desperate predicament of getting access to a hunky star actor and convincing him to come home with her. Piece of cake, right?

Janette Rallison’s proven talent for laugh-out-loud humor, teen romance, and deep-hearted storytelling shines in a novel that will have readers laughing and crying at the same time.

I didn’t really think I would like this book, because let’s face it- stalkers are creepy. And no matter how much I love the character, the truth is Annika is a stalker. Another reason: I hate books about cancer. They’re just too depressing and faux philosophical. For example, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or . But somehow, Ms. Rallison managed to balance this book and make it non-creepy and even somewhat light. A huge part of that is due to the dialogue.

“No wonder he has such nice teeth. They probably pay him in dental floss.”

“That’s the thing about the internet. It’s really good at giving you pointless facts like how many horses a star owns, but not important things like how to invade his trailer.”

And I hate to say this, but maybe it was the implausibility of this story that made it so great. I mean I totally am against ambiguity and implausibility but it’s part of what kept this books so light and fluffy. I mean what kind of security guard would actually let two teenage girls on to a TV set? Even ones dressed as animal wranglers? And what kind of Holywood actor or actress can drop all of their plans to seea fan? Even if said fan is sick with cancer? But somehow it all made this book seem cute instead of stupid.

In the book, the whole stalker thing is kind of a novelty. Sure, it’s kind of weird and creepy but most time’s the girls’ ideas and their embarrassment when their plot inevitably fails is hysterical.

Characters:3/5

Annika: Right from the first chapter, I knew I loved the MC. For the sake of her sick younger brother, she woke up at 4:30 to  go to Toys-R-Us and pick up an action figure. Unfortunately getting the new Robin Hood toy is not so easy. While she’s over there a fat and mercenary creep shoves all of the action figures into his cart. He refuses to relinquish even one of them without a sum of $150. Of course, the MC is unwilling to pay the huge and unreasonable sum. What she does next is epic and the stuff movies are made of. Quickly distracting the creep, she grabs one of the action figure and runs all the way to the check in counter. Definitely a Robin Hood move.

Her determination and …creative ideas (most people use the other cr-word to describe her ideas) is basically what enables her to fulfil her brother’s wish. That and her ability (or maybe it’s a disability) to tell crazy lies with a straight face. Either way, she was a fun character to read about. If you used ‘spunky’ to describe Elizabeth Bennet, then you’ll have to use something like super-spunky to describe this character.

Miranda: Her best friend Miranda is pretty supportive too. She’s a whole lot more pragmatic and practical but she seems to have this motto: Best friends don’t let each other do stupid things…alone. She’s there for her friend through thick and thin (whichever is the bad one) and tries calming and convincing her friend not to do the stupid things. Tries being the keyword.

Steve: Steve is a character who yo-yo’s around quite a bit. Or at least Annika’s opinion of him does. But all in all (I can’t believe I actually used that phrase… my second grade teacher made us all promise to never use it), he’s a pretty intuitive guy who keeps his promises. He’s a nice guy. I hate the word nice; it’s so bland. But nice is the only real word to describe Steve because let’s face it, he’s a little bit bland. Just a little bit.

Romance:4/5

Opposites attract, right? Right. And the Annika and Steve pairing is clearly such a case. Annika is headstrong, stubborn and adventurous. And Steve is a movie star who’s pretty much Mr. Nice Guy most of the time. I didn’t really like Steve at the beginning but somehow Annika’s personality made him shine by the end. She challenges him and he challenges her right back. Plus, you have to love their banter.

Ending:4/5

Woah! Woah! Woah! Is it legal to do that? To leave us poor readers in the lurch and wondering if the sweet, innocent, 6-year old is going to die of cancer? And what’s going to happen next in that relationship? If so, it shouldn’t be. I need a sequel. And I need it now!

Too bad there’s never gonna be one. I love these type of books. Somehow, you get so into the book, you keep wondering what’s gonna happen after it’s all over.

Plotholes:3/5

Like I said, so many things in this book were implausible (look up at plot). But no, I don’t think I picked up any unhealthy messages  in the book. So 3/5 it is.

 Overall Rating:3.5/5

Parts of this book made no sense at all. And the love interest seemed to have no personality at all for half of the book. But somehow, the sheer novelty of the plot and the MC’s plan to get Steve to meet her brother made this an enjoyable book. The MC is amazing!

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Unwind: A Book Review

Book: Unwind (Unwind dystology #1)

Author/Authoress: Neal Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)

Cover: 4/5

Right away the cover sets the tone for this book. Creepy, disturbing and dark. Just looking at the cover gave me chills. However, for those for you who are worried, the book is not as ghastly as the cover implies. The characters are very human. It’s just the world they’re placed into that is disturbing. One thing I love about the cover: the fingerprint identation. Identity is a major aspect of this book and what better way to represent that then by a fingerprint?

Plot:5/5

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

Yes the plot is actually as creepy as it sounds.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a novel about a world gone insane (to a frightening degree) in which children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be legally signed over by their parents or guardians to be put through a harvest camp so that others can take their organs, tissue and blood. Yes, you heard me. Organ harvestation camps.

In these camps, ‘problematic’ children and tithes (people who are brought up for the express purpose of being donors) have all of their organs harvested (or at least 99.44%) so that they can be reused. To make this world even more screwed up, transplants are pretty common in the world. You have less than stellar vision? No problem, you don’t need to get glasses. Glasses are so pointless when you can just get a new eye. Going bald? Ouch! you better cover that spot up soon. You can always use the lustrous locks of some poor teen.

“I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.”

This is what a boy about to be unwound says. And it reflects pretty well what society seems to think. Entirely useless children have no real place in it. They are more valuable in parts than as a whole.

So what’s the history behind the organ camps? Well apparently there was something called the Heartland Wars in which people fought over the issue of the legality and morality of abortion. The verdict? Abortion is illegal when the child is a foetus but you can always have all of their organs harvested while they are  between the ages of 13 and 18. How’s that for morality? And if you just can’t wait to get rid of the child, you could always use the ‘storking’ method. People can leave infants on other people’s doorstep and thus legally handing over their responsibilities of the child. And they’ll be forced to take it in. Perfectly legal and moral. As long as you don’t get caught of course. The problem is usually the storked families don’t want the infant anyways.

Anyways, as much as the plot creeps me out, you can see the sheer potential Neal Shusterman has created in this world. And he doesn’t disappoint. This book is crazy good in a creepy sort of way.

Characters: 5/5

The book is told in multiple POV’s. Thus, giving us a good feel for the thoughts and emotions of each character. I’ll write about them in chronological order.

Connor: He’s a troubled teen. Not particularly good but not particularly bad. He’s not vicious, spiteful or difficult. But he has quite a temper, goes looking for trouble and mostly lazy.  But his parents are also lazy and selfish. Bought in by all the unwinding-is-good propaganda, they sign him up to be unwound. And this is where the story starts. Understandably, Connor is not really into the idea. So he runs away in the middle of the night. He’s tracked by a Cop. To get away from him, he uses Levi as a hostage.

Lev is a tithe, a child born and raised to be signed off as an Unwind as soon as he turns thirteen. There’s no polite way to say this. But Lev is … brainwashed. His oldest brother is vehemently against the process, but his deeply religious parents have convinced Lev that being tithed is a great honor that he must follow through to the end. And Lev is not happy that the end will come later rather than sooner.

Disturbed by the chaos of an AWOL Unwound holding a tithe as hostage, Risa makes a plan to escape. She’s a ward of the state whose piano playing skills weren’t enough for her to make the cut. The budget cuts. And so she is signed up to be unwound. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t fit in well with her ambitons.

When these three meet, they make a plan to stay off the radar of the Cops (in the book the cops incharge are called juvenile authorities) who plan to take them to the harvestation camp (Okay, Risa and Connor do.)  Lev, who feels he was deprived of the purpose and honour of giving up his life, gives them up but immediately feels remorseful (frankly, that part really annoyed me). Thankfully, all three of them escape (there wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t). Risa and Connor end up in the basement of a safe house and Levi ends up in the company of an interesting kid called CyFi who suffers from something like dual personality because half of his brain was a transplant from another kid.

In the basement of the safe house Risa and Connor end up in the company of several children. One of them is Hayden. His parents divorced but were unable to decide who received custody. In pure spite, each of them signed the papers agreeing to let Hayden be unwound so that the other wouldn’t get custody. Talk about priorities. Another is Raymond. Raymond is a violent, psychopath who attacks Risa in an effort to get to Connor. He’s also a traitor. But even he doesn’t deserve the fate he receives. He’s unwound at Happy Jack Camp (that name is revolting, isn’t it?). That chapter is one of the most disgusting, horrifying scenes I’ve read. Scratch that. It is the most horrifying scene I’ve read. I almost puked. His unwinding takes place with him strapped to a table, conscious and under anaesthesia. The whole time, a nurse talks to him and warns him that he’ll lose ability and feeling in each of his limbs as they get harvested. Definitely not a scene for the faint hearted.

All three main characters grow and change so much in this book. Connor becomes responsible and trustworthy. He starts thinking before he acts (Risa’s influence no doubt). But his rough around the edges personality never truly goes away. Risa is the character who changes the least. She was never naïve, but I think her experience makes her a little jaded. Still she remains clever and full of life throughout the book. Holy Hell! does Lev change a lot? It was heart breaking to see him go from annoying little tithe to angry suicidal bomber to loyal and regretful friend. I predict that Lev’s a character to be watched throughout the series.

Romance:5/5

The romance in this book was like a little sidenote to the whole story. But you should feel assured that it was a good sidenote. The romance between Risa and Connor was sweet and intense but it didn’t take over the entire story like romance tends to do in most dystopian novels. Hello, Divergent or The Hunger Games? The character were willing and able to put the needs and necessities of other Unwinds before their own romance. And thank god each thought of theirs wasn’t nauseatingly sweet thoughts about the other.

Ending: 5/5

On a scale of 1-5 for cliffhangers, I’d put the book at about 2.5. The ending was pretty bitter sweet with each character having lost stuff important to them. <spoiler> Risa loses the use of her legs, Connor loses his arm and it gets replaced by an organ from an Unwind (which is something he feels is morally irreprehensible) and Lev gets put in jail trapped in a suit which doesn’t allow him to move at all. </spoiler>

Plotholes:5/5

This book really makes you think. It’s the type of dystopian book which has quite a few political undertones (and overtones too). I mean, pro-life or pro-choice- that’s quite a difficult decision to make. Maybe that’s why it’s so sensitive.

It speaks about identity and at points it even gets a little spiritual. Like if you are divided into parts and not really dead, would your soul disappear or would it just be spread. After reading this book you’ll practically be forced to deliberate on topics like morality and ethics of organ harvestation and how much control parents/guardians should really have.

Overall Rating: 5/5

It’s rare enough for me to give one book a 5/5 rating but two in a row? The sky must have fallen. But Unwind deserves this rating. Deep, interesting and unique characters, a twisting and new plotline. Plus it really makes you think. I’d recommend this book to everyone over the age of 13 because there is one chapter that is particularly revolting (Raymond’s unwinding). That chapter is not terribly descriptive but it is the stuff of nightmares, so beware.

 

This Is What Happy Looks Like: A Book Review

Book: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Author/Authoress: Jennifer Brown

“From: EONeill22@hotmail.com
Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:18 PM
To: GDL824@yahoo.com
Subject: what happy looks like
Sunrises over the harbor. Ice cream on a hot day. The sound of the waves down the street. The way my dog curls up next to me on the couch. Evening strolls. Great movies. Thunderstorms. A good cheeseburger. Fridays. Saturdays. Wednesdays, even. Sticking your toes in the water. Pajama pants. Flip-flops. Swimming. Poetry. The absence of smiley faces in an e-mail.

What does it look like to you?”  

This Is What Happy Looks Like

Cover: 5/5

I love the tiny boat which is probably similar to the one Ellie and Graham sailed in during Ellie’s ‘mission’ to find her father. I love the sun rising in the background which represents a happy time in their relationship but most of all I love the fact that the characters are silhouetted for their privacy- a major issue in this book. Another plus point needs to be given for the title. This Is What Happy Looks Like is not only a cute title but a fitting one too. Five on five for the cover.

Characters: 2/5

The characters in this book were not particularly strong which is peculiar for a young adult contemporary book.

Ellie is a normal small town girl who just so happens to be the illegitimate daughter of a famous politician. This is why she is constantly freaked out by paparazzi. She’s an aspiring writer, enjoys long walks on the beach and eating ice cream. I won’t criticize Jennifer’s writing style- it’s great, definitely the show not tell variety, but Ellie is such a cookie-cutter character. Quite honestly, she’s a cliché. There’s nothing really quirky or cool about her. Not her hair (which is a brownish red), her hobbies (mentioned above), her clothes (t-shirts, skirts and rubber flip flops) or her dreams. Maybe the ordinariness is part of her charm for some, but for me her normality was just boring.

Graham Larkin is kind of cliché too to be honest. He’s a bit of a stalker and goes into long tangents about why his fame is so annoying. But other than that, I did like him as a character. He was definitely more quirky than Ellie was (it’s funny how much I like character quirks)- He has a pet pig and  obsessed with finding a ‘whoopi pie’. I think this was part of what contributed to his sweet, lovable characteristic traits. When you look at all these details, do you really think that he’s the kind of guy to punch camera people? No, me neither. I was kind of annoyed when he started to go out of character; I liked him sweet and cute, dammit!

One thing I really, really, really disliked about this book was the absence of support characters. In the beginning of the book we are introduced to Quinn, a super short, super cute character who is the main character’s best friend and I thought she looked promising. My hopes were dashed, however, when she suddenly stopped being friendly with Ellie and just dropped off the radar. Olivia, Graham’s co-star had the potential to be either a great character or a bad character but Jennifer Brown doesn’t use her at all. She’s not a character at all!

The parents in this book are not that great either. Sure, Ellie’s mom is nice and protective but even then she doesn’t make much of an appearance. We get a huge backstory about Graham’s parents. About how they don’t really support him in his acting career, how his home life is a bit strained, how he moved away and is kind of glad they don’t visit, etc. But it all dissolves with a banal, trite phone call at the end.

Plot:4/5

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

I dived into this book fully expecting a cutesy, fun, breezy read with cliché, cutesy, fun, breezy characters and a cliché, cutesy, fun,breezy plotline and that’s what I got more or less. This book doesn’t get any points for morality or profoundness. In fact it inclines slightly to the horribly cheesy. But the dialogue in this book is beautiful. It’s what you could expect from teenagers. Natural, light and beautiful in it’s simplicity.

“I’m not sure I’m quite finished saying hello yet.”

and

“Salutations,” he said, and she smiled.
“Good morning.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It really is.”  

and

“I never said I was good,” he told her, taking the pen. “Just that I liked doing it.”
“That’s the best kind of good.”   

See what I mean?

Romance: 2/5

It wasn’t insta-love. Or at least that’s what I tried telling myself. They had written e-mails to each other for almost three months, right? But, no matter how I tried to think about it, I couldn’t forget the fact that this story effectively takes place over the huge (sarcasm) span of five days. Definitely enough time to build a strong, stable romance. Yep, definitely.

I was so not on board with the whole damsel in distress thing either. I kind of wanted to jump ship when he made a bet (in her favour) for a thousand bucks so that she could use the money to go to a poetry course at Harvard. Feminism, anyone?

Plotholes: 2/5

No one accidentally pen pals a stranger who ends up being a movie star. But it’s just a book and this is excusable too anyone who’s just looking for a fun, easy, light read. I honestly didn’t have too much problem with this part. After all, if I can read books about vampires and witches without complaining that they’re unrealistic, I can do the same for this one.

The worst part of this book was the fact that as soon as problems reared their ugly head, they were smoothened over miraculously with very little effort on either of the character’s parts. Got caught and recognized by paparazzi as the illegitimate child of a famous politician? No problem, that’s only a tiny footnote in the article which exclaims boldly that you’re Graham Larkin’s girlfriend. Seeing your parents became rarer and rarer after you became a movie star and worrying that it’s your fault? It’s not because they disapprove of your career, it’s because the flashing lights of Hollywood are too much for them. Punched a cameraman? Oh it’s okay, your director says you need to look tougher for your role in your next movie. I kid you not, these were actual problems and solutions in the book ‘This Is What Happy Looks Like’. Though some things in life really do come together at the last minute with virtually no effort, most things do not. And this is not just unrealistic, it’s an unhealthy message too. You can not solve your problems by waiting, doing nothing and hoping for the best.

Overall recommendation: 2.5/5

I’m not even sure why I liked this book. I read this book within the week so it may be recent book syndrome. After all the character’s were boring, the romance was unrealistic and the plot was kind of cliché. But there’s other things about this book too. The sweet emails that were sent back and forth, the quest for ‘whoopi pies’ and the quick, natural banter all brought a smile to my face. I wouldn’t recommend buying this book but if you ever get a chance to borrow it, please do.

  

This Song Will Save Your Life:A Book Review

Book: This Song Will Save Your Life

Author/Authoress: Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life

Cover: 3/5

An ordinary girl wearing huge headphones (on closer inspection, I realized that they’re the type that DJ’s wear) and glasses (which everyone somehow manages to connect to geeks) is featured on the cover. And, I guess it makes sense. I’m more annoyed with the huge title and how it manages to take up 95% of the cover. Besides I don’t really like the pink letters which spell out love- which is not the main premise of the story.

Characters:5/5

Elise, the main character, has spent her entire childhood knowing that she’s different. Maybe even weird. And she’s been ostracized for it. This book deals with bullying at a primal level. It deals with the desire to fit in and to have friends. And everything about this book is spot on. I really felt for Elise as she explained her reasoning to spend an entire summer learning how to be ‘cool’. How she spent exorbitant amounts of clothes and  researched and memorized  pop culture. At the same time I sort of wanted to shake her and ask her ‘Why the hell do you want to pretend to be someone your not?’ And the funny thing is, Elise answered my question perfectly. She wasn’t hoping for a miracle-to become popular. All she wanted was to fit in, find a group of friends and NOT be ostracized. Unfortunately, she manages to mess that up in school leading her to attempt suicide. She goes as far as to make a ‘dying’ playlist and slash her wrists before realizing she really does want to live and that this was just a call for attention. And it does give her attention. Negative attention from her parents and worse from the people at school. Someone starts writing a parody blog in her name about why she was so desperate to kill herself. She spends most of the book regretting her actions and wishing she could take it back and wondering if some parts of the blog are actually true. The other parts of the book she spends establishing herself at a club. Her love for music initially helps her to fit in but she soon learns that it’s her personality which helps her to make friends. And she learns that she has a huge talent for DJing. The fact that she was able to take her passion, music and become an amazing DJ was a huge inspration to me personally. I’d like to think that we’re all just talented enough to do what we love even if we’re much younger than traditionally expected. I think all of us can identify a little bit with Elise’s character, either to a greater or smaller extent. I’d  strongly suggest you read Emily May’s review of this book.  She’s explained Elise’s character much more eloquently and with more feeling than I ever could have.

I love Elise’s friends too.  Vicky is the practical, bubbly girl who plays in a band, Pippa is the partying wild child and Char is a mysterious, professional DJ. All of these characters were three dimensional. They were real people who had real lives. Another thing I loved was the fact that just having friends didn’t make Elise’s life perfect. Sure, they made her life easier but ultimately Elise was the star of her show. They don’t know about Elise’s harsh past which makes their connections plenty times stronger and a hundred times more believable.

Elise’s family was perfect too. Her parents are divorced and not particularly good terms with each other but both of them are very supportive of Elise. You can see the love and affection that binds them all together.  From the crazy, animal-pretending,over-achieving-carbon copy of her older sister, younger sister to her dad who used to be in a band, they really do support each other.

Plot:5/5

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together

Personally, I loved this book. And I have to say, Leila Sales gets kudos points for developing this plot. Parts of it were sad, parts of it were profound and parts of it were fun. But all of it was realistic. If I were to ever write a book, I’d like to keep this one as a yardstick to measure it against.

Romance:5/5

The romance was the slow ‘we became more than friends’ type and I loved it for that fact. Char and Elise’s romance was a complicated thing and it was beautiful while it lasted but it was riddled with problems. First of all, there was the age gap. Elise was 16 while Char was in his 20’s. Not to mention, his reluctance to give away the details of his non-DJ life.  Then, there was the fact that Elise found Char insensitive at times. And that her friend, Pippa was in love with him. When you look at all of these things, it’s not really surprising that they broke up. Although that’s not the reason Elise focused on. Elise felt that Char was happy with her only as long as she fit into the mould of the girl he wanted her to be. As soon as she became a more successful and popular DJ than him, he couldn’t see himself with her anymore. I can’t judge whether this was the main reason they broke up or not since the whole book was in Elise’s point of view but it definitely was a contributing factor. But Char somewhat redeemed himself towards the end when he wished her good luck for her debut as a real Friday night DJ. First loves rarely last but they are sweet as long as they do.

Overall Rating:4.75/5

You need to read this book as soon as possible. It’s beautiful and profound with an interesting MC and a great set of secondary characters. There are some books which stay with you forever and This Song Will Save Your Life is definitely one of them. I’ve already read it thrice and I expect I’ll read it several more times. It’s definitely ‘classic’ material.