Reading Sara Review: All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

all the bright places

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 6, 2015)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

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Reading Sara Review: I loved many parts of this book. For young adult readers, and adults alike, it touches on the challenges of youth in a deep in a meaningful way. All the Bright Places had been on my TBR list since it was released in 2015 to rave reviews. I am so glad that I finally had a free weekend to devour this book.

All the Bright Places follows two protagonists, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. They come from different worlds (Violet is popular and well-liked while Theodore takes pride in being the school ‘freak’). It sounds like a tired story until you learn how they meet in the first chapter: both on the belltower of their school, contemplating a jump. Spoiler alert: neither jumps, but they do build a friendship.

Violet and Theodore face inner demons that haunt them. They are different than the rest of their friends but are brought together by a sense of their shared hurt and struggles. This book is a story of first love, of the first opening of the heart to another soul. It is also the story of depression: how it can come as suddenly as it disappears and how love and friendship (no matter how great) cannot fix people who suffer.

Throughout reading the book, I had a feeling that something terrible was going to happen, which kept the book interesting until the last page.

This is one story of mental illness and certainly does not speak to all of the forms and struggles that people (especially teenagers) face. But I felt that this story was told well. The characters felt alive – you had hopes for them, you wanted them to get help, you hated some of the adults in their lives and had empathy for others.

If you are a fan of other heartbreaking young adult books (Fault in our Stars etc.), add this to your TBR list. It has a quirky tone for a book about something serious, which did not bother me – but I have heard of others complain of it. I thought Niven wrote a lovely story, with memorable characters, unforgettable emotions and lovable writing.

Read it now, before the movie comes out! I hear Elle Fanning is slated to play Violet in the 2017 film adaption.

Some of my favorite quotes, to give a sample of the writing style:

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

“Sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start, so there’s nothing to apologize for.”

“Because it’s not a lie if it’s how you feel.”

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Reading Sara Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

everything everything

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press (September 1, 2015)

Rating: 7.5/10

everything everything

“Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything. Besides, doomed love is a part of life.” – Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything

Reading Sara Review: Everything, Everything is simple in its premise: a young adult story about a bubble girl, a person isolated from the world – her world is only discovered by reading, conversations with her full-time nurse, and her doting mother. Luckily for the reader, Yoon weaves a story that is so much more than simple. The story is about friendship, first loves, discovery, and forgiveness.

I know people who shy away from young adult novels, but I would encourage those people to give this book a try if you want to dip your toes into the genre. Similar to I’ll Give You the Sun, it has themes that go much deeper and characters that we readers understand through their pain. Critics of this book will say that it is just another cheesy YA love story (ala Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor & Park, etc.). YA literature is not as deep – and this book is not perfect. But it is a quick, lovely story that I highly recommend.

“I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” We get to fall in love with Madeline, our sick, near death central character. And we get to watch her fall in love with Olly, the neighbor who quickly becomes fascinated by the girl in the window that never comes outside. We follow her adventures, her daring challenges, the ups and downs of her relationship with her mom – who has always loved her deeply and protected her above all else.

“Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones, and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.”

Everything, Everything is definitely on my list for best books of 2015. Have you read it? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Last Minute Gift Buying for your Book and/or Wine Loving Friends & Family!

Book & Wine Wednesday Special Feature

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I will be the first to admit that I haven’t finished my holiday shopping. I usually get a pretty good head start with most of my family, and then get distracted and fail to complete my shopping promptly and have to suffer through going to the mall around the holidays.

So, if you have not finished your shopping, or thinking about grabbing a little something extra, I bring you the first Reading Sara Book & Wine Wednesday Gift Buying Feature! Bonus: you can still use Amazon Prime and get everything in time!

For your niece: If she loved The Fault in Our Stars and all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, she would devour Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon. I devoured it, too, so you may want to sneak in a quick read before wrapping it. Everything Everything is a great coming-of-age story about a girl who learns to explore her world inside her head and outside, and, because it’s YA, it includes a lovely love story.

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For your crafty, travel-loving friend: Paris Coloring Book by Min Heo. I picked up this bright orange Paris Coloring Book in San Diego over the weekend. I can’t wait to color everything from Notre Dame to baguettes to the Seine. Pair the book with some beautiful colored pencils and you will be giving your adventure-loving friend hours of relaxation and dreaming in the coming New Year.

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For your work BFF: She’s the one who listens to you complain and always has a hug to give you. I recommend a badass book for this badass friend. The book, You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero is a great confidence-booster and reminder to her that she is totally awesome.

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For your sister who graduated in May and has not quite figured it all out yet:  Adulting: How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. Adulting is a must read for any out-on-their-own-for-the-first-timer. I went to college with the author, so am biased toward her brilliance, but truly wish I had a book like this when I was 22! It is full of creative wit with sound advice.

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For your single brother: I am a huge Aziz Ansari fan, and I bet your brother is too. Help him out with Ansari’s newest book Modern Romance. Buy the hardback, not the Kindle version of this one!

modern romance

For your Mom: I think it is a fact that all women over 55 love Robert Redford and they especially loved him in the movie Out of Africa. I recommend treating your mom to the new Paula McLain Book, Circling the Sun, reviewed by yours truly here, and the Out of Africa movie for a girl’s night in. Throw in a bottle of bubbly, recommended here, some popcorn and chocolate, and you are in for a special evening!

Circling the Sun

For your Sister-in-Law: I have a sister-in-law who is the absolute best and very much like a real sister to me. If you are as lucky as I am, you will want to get her something special. For my birthday, she bought me the complete Jane Austen Book Set from Penguin. Trust me, your sister-in-law (or real sister) will love this gift. They are so beautiful and a perfect decoration for her shelf, and (obviously) classic books to pick up and read when she needs her Jane Austen-fix. She will be surprised and delighted to find a thoughtful gift like this under the tree! Jane Austen, the Complete Works can be found on Amazon.

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For your boyfriend/husband: If he has not read the Song of Ice & Fire Series by George R.R. Martin yet, the entire set is a great gift that will last him months (this is that Game of Thrones thing that all of your friends keep talking about…but the books, which are great). If he has already read them, spruce up his collection with these pretty ones!

song of ice and fire

 

For your BFF: Almost Famous Women: Stories, by Megan Mayhew Bergman. First of all, the cover itself told me that this would be the next favorite book of mine. I will post a review of this one soon, but in the meantime, I plan to give it to some of my favorite women this holiday season!

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For your other BFF: Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton. This book came out in October and is an incredible compilation of stories that will inspire and astound you. Grab a favorite bottle of wine and read the book together!

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For Your Book Club: You all worked hard this year! Don’t forget to treat your group to something special for the next meeting! I recommend California Sparkling Wine, made by One Hope. Every bottle provides 15 meals to a child in need…So you are drinking a beautiful bottle of bubbly, talking about great books, and helping kids eat…seems like a pretty good deal to me!

One Hope

 

Good luck with your holidays! Don’t forget to buy yourself a book (or two or three!).

Reading Sara Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage, by Courtney Summers

all the rage

Rating: 4/5
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (April 14, 2015)

Amazon Book Description: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won’t now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

Reading Sara Review: Whoa. This book is heavy. Not literally. But seriously heavy in context. This is the story that we read too often in the news, hear about more than we should – young girls being taken advantage of, not believed when they tell the truth, the boys getting away with their crimes because of who their parents are or how they were raised. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO START BELIEVING THESE GIRLS?? WHY IS IT SO HARD?

Sorry. Had to get that out. This is a work of fiction, so I will try not to get too fired up. It’s an important young adult book, because I hope that it teaches teenagers empathy to each other.  I hope it teaches parents to love unconditionally, even when the kids do not seem to want it. I hope it helps girls stop bullying each other.

The girl to girl bullying that occurs today (and when I was in middle school) is horrible. I was bullied in middle school by a group of girls – I could not even tell you anymore what the situation was, why they didn’t like me, and it honestly doesn’t matter. I remember getting a horrible note in my locker once (I do not still have the note, and even if I did, I would not need to share the more colorful pieces of it). I showed it to my parents when I got home that day. They supported me. They took that note to the school. And the bullying (at least via mean notes) stopped eventually – yes, I got teased more for showing it to my parents, but eventually it died down. Eventually I made different friends that I could trust. Then high school came, and it was better. Then college came, and it was even better. And then life after college came, and it is amazing. 20 years later, I still remember how hurtful and awful that note was. But I also know that girls can just be mean.  I can’t even imagine today with social media what these kids go through, I luckily had a note that I could throw away, and had parents that I could trust and would listen to me and be on my side.

I do feel like I need to admit here that there are things I did as an adolescent that I sincerely regret and think about often. Bullying was not necessarily a term used when I was that age, like it is now. But I am sure some of the things that I did were out of anger and confusion – and I regret that I hurt other people and there are many moments I think back to often and would do anything to take back. I don’t know if the girl who wrote me that letter remembers it at all, or regrets it, but I think that forgiveness and letting go, and learning from those mistakes, is the best that we can do. And we can hopefully teach our daughters and the next generation ways that will make them better to each other. Girls need friends that they can trust.

Back to this book – this is a well told story of a girl who was not believed by her peers or her community. The writing is lovely. There is some mystery, and the book jumps around a little, so stick with it, you will understand soon. Romy, our protagonist, built up her own armor through lipstick, nail polish, and trying to become invisible. Romy is too young to deal with these big issues – the loss of friends over boys, the bullying and the secrets that she has to hold so close to her chest. Romy is strong though, she has been through a lifetime already, and she sees things that others might miss because of that. She forgives when it is time – and in the end, she makes a big decision to be strong and help others.

This book is not an easy book to read, because it deals with things that I hate thinking about – hate knowing that these things occur in our society. But until we start believing these girls (women too), we need to talk about it and find ways to help girls stay safe and know that they will be heard. Being a girl is tough, people, lets love each other even more every day.