Kick Push: A Book Review

“You said that life’s just like skating; I just need to kick forward and take a chance, push off the ground and follow through. And when everything works out, I’ll coast.”

Book: Kick Push

Author: Jay McLean

Kick Push (Kick Push, #1)

Blurb:

There’s a single defining moment within every skater.
It lasts only a second. Two if you’re good.
Three if you’re really good.
It’s the moment you’re in the air, your board somewhere beneath you, and nothing but wind surrounds you.
It’s the feeling of being airborne.

The sixteen-year-old version of me would’ve said it was the greatest feeling in the world.
Then at seventeen, I had my son.
And every single second became a defining moment. Even the ones that consisted of heartbreak when his mother left us.

Seventeen. Single. Dad.
That’s what my life became.
Yet, every day, I managed to find that feeling of being airborne.
Or at least I convinced myself I did.
But I lied—to myself and to everyone around me.
Until she showed up; Tanned skin, raven dark hair, and eyes the color of emeralds.

You know what sucks about being in the air?
Coming down from the high.
Sometimes you land on the board and nail the trick.
Then kick, push, and coast away.
Other times you fall.
You fall hard.
And those are the times when it’s not as easy to get back up, dust off your pads and try again.
Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.

My thoughts:

Kick Push was one of my Random Reads. I don’t know why I picked it up. It was about a skater. I know nothing about skating. It was a new-adult romance. I typically dislike angsty, over-blown new-adult romances. It promised to cover teen pregnancy. (This is going to sound awful) I’ve never considered the difficulties of being a single parent in your teens. Not in anything more than a vague, distant way.

Kick Push has amazing writing. It is lyrical and descriptive. Each word is violent and necessary. Each sentence high-kicks you in the face and each paragraph shoves your head under water. Sometimes, the writing was so beautiful and sad and simple, I found my lungs burning because I had forgotten to keep breathing.

“He punches the steering wheel. And then he breaks. The boy I love breaks. And there’s nothing sadder, nothing harder in the world than watching the person you love fall apart right before your eyes—and you can’t say or do anything”

Yes, it’s melodramatic and overblown. You can tell just by reading the blurb (which I did not do because it was a Random Read). It’s overly-poetic and unabashedly sorrowful but I can forgive it….Almost.

This book gave me so much more respect for single parents. In an abstract way, I knew that it wasn’t easy to be a single parent (or to be a teen parent). I know that jobs rarely want to hire high-schoolers with no experience. I know that child-care is expensive and I know that parents make sacrifices, but never has it resonated so much with me.

I am so impressed by Ms. McLean’s gutsy decision to write this from the perspective of a guy. Again, this  makes me sound recklessly uncaring,  but even though I’ve heard of single-mother teens, I’ve never considered how tough it would be for the father.

“You know what’s worse than your landlady calling you out on wearing cologne purely because you want to impress her granddaughter? I’ll tell you what. Being in the confined space of a truck while your son tells said granddaughter about how you paid him five moneys for him to tell you about what she said about you. Yeah. That’s happening.”

But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?)  this is first and foremost a love story. While I loved both characters individually, I couldn’t root for their relationship. They were just so broken and dealing with so many responsibilities, that I kept thinking their relationship was unhealthy. Maybe, that’s why I wasn’t surprised the relationship turned to shit, that the break-up was so destructive.

I appreciate that the book acknowledges that real-life lesson, that love isn’t always enough. That sometimes there is some scary, horrible things happening below the surface and that you need to be careful when you give your heart to someone, even if they’re the most selfless, bravest, kindest person you know.

This book ends on a cliff-hanger and I’m not even angry about it. If there was a happy-ending, I would have considered it rushed. Both characters fought some of their nasty demons in this book, but they still have a lot of growing up to do. There’s a second book (no idea when it’ll be released though).

“There’s a big difference between being happy and being selfish. Choose to be happy. Fire truck the rest.”

Overall Rating: 3/5

On a barely related side-note, this book makes me realize that real-life is scary.

Sloppy Firsts: A Book Review

Book: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling Book #1)

Author: Megan McCarthy

Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, #1)

Blurb:

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment–from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

My thoughts:

This book confused me. There’s no other way to put it.
No wonder when it’s written in the form of a 16 year old’s diary. Yeah, life confuses me too.
It was a jumbled, confused mess of thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts were hopelessley shallow and petty and made me roll my eyes (I’m a teen I do stuff like that), while at other times I could relate with the MC so much I wanted to cry and then there was the occasional stray thought which was so introspective and profound that I could actually understand why she had been labelled a genius.
But throughout this book was raw. Raw and organic -which makes it sound like some healthy kind of food. Her writing was as tangential as mine (typical teen mind, I guess) but there was something beautiful about the fact that it was so unedited.
Fake friendships (I thought this was particularly interesting dealt since it dealt with both sides-being the untrue friend and being betrayed by someone else), being true to yourself (whatever that may be),parental expectations, appreciating the irony of life, unrequited crushes, missing friends, the consequences of drugs and manipulation- this book dealt with it all. And very poignantly, that too.
I don’t know if I liked this book, but I can’t deny that this book made me feel.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Lovely Vicious: A Book Review

Book: Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious #1)

Author/Authoress: Sara Wolf

Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious, #1)

Cover: 2/5

It’s good looking enough but I can’t remember a single time when Isis ever went swimming. So, it’s pretty much inaccurate unless Sara Wolf wanted to convey the fact that Isis felt like she was drowning…okay that’s kind of metaphysical. Too metaphysical. 2/5 for the cover.

Plot: 3/5

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to the Buttcrack-of-Nowhere Ohio to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing – Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.

The game board: East Summit High.

The reward: Something neither of them expected.

The blurb’s a bit misleading. I thought it would be a cheesy, fun, flirt love-hate romance. It definitely is not.

Sure, Jack is an Ice Prince and Isis is cynical and disbelieving of love but there is so much more to the story than that. By the time you get to chapter 5 or so you’ll find out that Jack works as an escort and Isis was abused emotionally. Their backstories are truly tragic and I think the representation of who they become because of their experiences is pretty accurate.Through most of this book, I felt like a balloon was trapped in my throat. It was just so sad at times but Isis would never let me cry. Her tough, cynical, overtly-honest words refused to let me feel any pity for her. Only sympathy. Even when I got near the end of the middle and found out that their backstories were a lot more tragic than originally stated, I still couldn’t cry because neither Isis or Jack were the type to appreciate crying.

But there were times I burst out laughing. Sure their antics were a little….implausible and immature. But they were hilarious. And they lightened the mood considerably. Without them, this book would have been gloom and doom and full of angst. With it, it was dark with a streak of humour.

Characters:4/5

Isis: She comes across as totally confident and in-control but she’s hiding a insecure mess. She’s been abused- mentally, emotionally and physically and it’s done a number on her self confidence. But she’s really loyal. And that’s what gets her dragged into this whole ‘war’. Isis was a character I really enjoyed. I read this book in bed and I she made me roll off it  laughing with her intensely sarcastic and sometimes deeply inappropriate retorts.

Jack: I get the feeling that I’m supposed to like this character, but I just can’t. It’s a mess. He’s too ice-cold for me to really feel anything for/about him. He keeps on doing stuff which is morally…just not done. I really don’t have much tolerance for this guy. Maybe he’s supposed to get my sympathy but he pretty much dug his own hole. What I do like about him: In the ‘War’, he’s able to keep his own. When Isis comes up with a one-liner that would have embarrassed me to pieces he notches up the ‘War’ another level with a clever quip and a less-than-clever prank.
Also his Mom was really cool. Although isn’t it a bit sad when you like the love interest’s Mom more than you like the character?

Kayla: Okay, this she was a really interesting character. One that might be more interesting than the MC…Nah, she isn’t but she comes a close second. Kayla is Isis’s best friend but their relationship isn’t that simple. For one thing, Kayla gets seriously annoyed whenever someone takes her for just another pretty face. She isn’t and Isis is one of the first to actually acknowledge it.  Kayla has a serious crush on Jack. So that’s one thing that really complicated their friendship.
I think I was kind of creeped out (just a little bit) when Isis paid Jack to take Kayla out on a date. I was even more creeped out when he agreed (because it was kind of obvious that he liked Isis) but it became clearer by the end of the date. Kayla reminds Isis of a prettier version of her younger self- naïve and carefree.

Besides these characters, there was a whole cast of supporting characters who were pretty amazing. I think I especially loved Wren. He plays a huge part in this book and despite the fact that you should think that he’s evil ( gasp!- he’s Nameless’ cousin) he’s actually the sweetest and most caring character in the book.

Knife Guy was hilarious (not that you would think that from his nickname) and Avery definitely played her frenemy part well.

Romance:1/5

Yes, I agree that Jack and Isis are like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.  But only because the whole Romeo and Juliet romance was pretty messed up. They were 14, Romeo ditched another girl for her, they got married, killed relatives, forgot about silly things like- I don’t know, pulses?, and poisoned themselves. Yep, totally messed up. And that’s what the romance in this book is like. It’s not a hate-love relationship. It’s like  a hate-hate turned into lust relationship. Gross.

But I can see the attraction. Maybe… deep down, somewhere.

Writing: 5/5

There were two things I loved about the book. One was Isis. The other was the dialogue with Isis.

“How did you find me? If you hacked into the Club’s computer to look up my appointments – ”
“Whoa, I think you overestimate me, shitlord. Last time I checked all I did was be in the wrong place at the right time. I saw you and had to – ”
“Stalk me.”
“ – delicately approach you. In a sideways manner. From behind. Without being seen at all. For ten minutes.”

I would love to slap you right now, but I’m currently wielding a nine pound ball and I’m afraid that would be called murder

“You’re drunk.”
“Yeah, and you’re ugly, but do I complain about it? No! Because I don’t complain about things that I can’t change. That’s called intelligence.”

Don’t you have something to better to work on?” I hiss. “Like golfing or eating prunes or dying?”
The old lady looks shocked.
“Okay, sorry, not dying. But seriously, prunes are good for you.”

Plotholes:2/5

Most of the war was completely unrealistic. At times, it got really, really vicious. I kept on thinking something like ‘He/She went too far. They’re gonna get screwed.’ throughout the book. The Principal’s involvement was really pushing it too far. I mean since when would a professional get involved in such a childish and immature prank war?

At times it seemed like this was a fanfiction. A bunch of fun, hilarious events haphazardly connected to each other with a bucket load of immature insults thrown in. I’m certain that the war part of this book would’ve been a lot of fun to write but in the realistic scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense. It was created solely to show that Isis and Jack could take a whole lot of crap and keep moving. Which is an admirable message, but I think the ‘War’ was the wrong way to go about showing that both characters were strong, creative and versatile individuals.

Warning: The book features quite a bit of profanity. It kind of bugged me so I’m including that here.

Ending: 4/5

Oh my gosh. This is the definition of a cliff-hanger. <spoiler> She gets amnesia, forgets about Jack and meets Sophie </spoiler>. I need to see where this is going. It’s heart breaking. Heart-breaking I tell you. This was really, really well-written.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

I’m sure this was a fun book to write and it was definitely a fun book to read but if you actually think about this book for a minute, then you’ll realize most of this book makes no sense. The only redeeming features (the ones that stopped this book from being put in the same category as Matched or The Selection) was the excellent dialogue and the some of the characters. If you can ignore every thing else, then you should really enjoy this book.

 

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.

Green: Do you think he’s a genius or does he make you want to commit genocide?

When you think John Green, you think of Young Adult fiction and when you think of Young Adult fiction, you think of John Green. This Indianapolis born author has become a major part of modern young adult literature. Harsh critics everywhere praise this middle-aged man (yes, he’s actually as old as my dad) for creating stirring books about teenagers but there are some people like me who are not ready to bow down to John Green and his mighty prowess.

After four of John’s books-The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines (read in that order), I think I’m qualified enough to answer this question. Though I definitely don’t think of John Green as a genius, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he makes me feel like committing genocide. I’m still completely anti-genocidal. But John Green’s books do make me want to bang my head on a desk repeatedly. Why?

Characters:

John Green himself has admitted that his main characters tend to be ‘white washed’ while his supporting characters of other races do little more than act as sidekicks over here but that’s not even the most unforgivable part. What really gets my goat is the fact that all the characters are so interchangeable. They’re usually male (TFIOS is the sole exception) and on the brighter side of the spectrum (read, they’re smart cookies) but sometimes I feel like John’s trying too hard to make them sound smart. They lust unforgivably over a hot female friend. And they’re as straight-laced as they get, while they’re friends are decidedly…not. Cigarettes, under aged drinking, etc. etc. the protagonist is usually dragged into all of it by his friends. Which, if you think about it, is not really a healthy message. The sidekicks…ahem, I mean the supporting characters, exist for no reason except to tempt our lovable protagonist into becoming more ‘fun’ and to endure racial jokes. Another unhealthy message. The love interest just sits there looking pretty and shares a couple of witty and supposedly ‘profound’ lines with the protagonist (which must have taken them hours to think up). Yet another bad message.  John Green has a formula and this is it. There are almost no deviations from this formula. For someone who claims to be pretty bad at maths, John sure does love his formulae.

Plot:

Plot? What plot? Oh I’m sorry was the long car trip supposed to be the plot? They sit in a car. Crack a few lame jokes. The sidekicks need to pee…a lot. Oh, and somehow they all bond over it? Let me tell you something. Car trips are not as romantic as John Green makes them sound. 8 hours in a cramped car is enough to drive a saint to the devil. Screaming, tantrums, weird music turned up to unbearably loud levels, etc.  If you’re lucky enough to do it in the middle of the night, the passengers sleep in awkward positions with cricks in their necks while the driver woozily stares towards the high way (day)dreaming of sleep. And when they get to their destination (or non- destination) they meet a bunch of people who are magical clones of them-just of the opposite gender.

Writing/Dialogue

One of my friends commented that John’s books are kind of pushy. They try to force you to think in one way and instantly condemn you if you don’t think the same way. It’s like the cliché clique in high school but worse because it’s a middle aged man who is advocating it all.  It’s something remotely philosophical and deep wrapped up with excessive amounts of attitude and then shoved down your throat instead of being handed to you politely.

Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.

When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.

At times, I felt like I wasn’t reading a book; I was listening to a supposedly philosophical sermon. Maybe I’m not-so-smart and maybe I hang out with people who are not-so-smart but I have never heard real teenagers sprout out these beautiful pearls of wisdom in quick succession. If I’m lucky, I say 3 wise things a day, not a conversation.

So wrapping it up, I know that a lot of people like John Green. And that’s great but his books are not really my cup of tea. I like more realistic, original characters, More realistic, wholesome plots and more realistic, down-to-earth dialogues. Basically I want my realistic fiction to be (you got it) realistic.