Favorite Books Read in 2016

annual list, Favorites, Uncategorized

This are my top 15 books I read in 2016.  Some were published in 2015, but read in 2016. It includes realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, action, and even a graphic novel (which isn’t normally my genre of choice).  Some are in a series while others are strong stand-alone novels.  A few are not only 2016 favorites, but will probably be favorites for a long while. [click on titles to see full summaries and age recommendations].

  • Daughter of Deep Silence  (2015) – Carrie Ryan
    • Such a mystery, such a conspiracy, and such intense revenge.  A cruise ship is attacked and everyone murdered except for Frances, a senator, and the senator’s son.  Year’s later, and with a new identity, Frances is out for the truth and vengeance after she learns the senator and his son lied about the ship.
  • Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans  (2015) – Don Brown
    • A graphic novel if ever I saw one!  This is an honest portrayal of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans from bodies bloated on the streets afterward to how FEMA handled the storm.  Graphic for sure, but with respect.
  • Everything, Everything (2015) – Nicola Yoon
    • Maddy and Ollie are odd teens for different reasons, though Maddy’s certainly takes the cake with her illness and pretty much being a “bubble girl” who must stay in a super neat, germ free environment.  She is smart, witty, and a great character.  The witty banter is a gem in this story, but there’s a super shock at the end which makes you want to reread the book again.  Yoon provides characters who are racially diverse as well as diverse in lifestyles.
  • The Glass Sword  (2016) – Victoria Aveyard                                                                               (The Red Queen series: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
    • One of the best series for strong female characters and some crazy Shakespearean plots and vengeance.  Fantasy at its best with evil rulers, underdogs with growing power, star-crossed-lovers, and battles between the elite and those they have treated others poorly for generations.  Now people rise together for the good of all.
  • Holding Up the Universe (2016) – Jennifer Niven
    • A beautiful story of struggle and acceptance of oneself.  Almost as great as All the Bright Places for a lovely lesson (less heartbreaking), but the kick awesomeness of dancing “I know who I am” Libby makes this girl one of my favorites.  A light romance, but the focus is more about loving who you are and being true to yourself.
  • I Was Here (2015) – Gayle Forman
    • Coping and trying to find answers to a friend’s suicide, Forman focuses on the depth of the grieving process and shows that it’s different for everyone.  This truly shows the “tentacles of suicide”.  As Cody tries to find the reason of her friend’s suicide she comes across something much darker in an online chat room.  This is a dark plot for sure, but a great reminder that people are not as they appear and also that life is unpredictable and grief is an ongoing process.
  • Inherit Midnight (2015) – Kate Kae Myers
    • Think Amazing Race with spoiled rich relatives.  Avery is either very lucky to be a VanDemere (very wealthy) or unlucky (she’s the black sheep of the family). She is on a quest, both geographically and personally, as she must trace her family’s history in order to receive letters from a mother who left her behind and whom Avery was told was dead.  There’s some romance, action, and a twist.
  • The Midnight Star  (2016) – Marie Lu                                                                                              The Young Elites (2014, 2015, 2016)
    • This is a great series of power hungry people with magical powers.  The Malfettos were once abused by society for surviving an illness and now having magical powers.  Soon they become the rulers as different magical people fight for power.  Men and women alike both are powerful, fall victim to selfish goals, and show vulnerabilities.  It offers great closure for our characters, but not after many, many battles and so many deaths we wonder which ruler will survive.  A great focus is on the love between sisters.
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015) – Patrick Ness
    • A lighter, more humorous mix of realistic fiction and fantasy.  Yes, it’s about a group of friends in high school who live in a town that seems to always have some supernatural occurrence every few years.  As the indie kids begin disappearing, the quartet of friends are just trying to make it to graduation. A group of diverse teens for sure, even before the supernatural visits the town.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2015) – Stephanie Oaks
    • A blast to the past with cabins, horses, and all the inequality for a female growing up in a cult.  The story is told in flashbacks and FBI interviews as Minnow is in juvenile detention after the cult’s camp burned down.  She also has no hands after they were cut off as a punishment by the Prophet. At first glance, it seems an adult novel due to plot and violence, but Minnow is a very strong teenager who faces loss, love, and is super strong.
  • Salt to the Sea (2016) – Ruta Sepetys
    • I finished this book weeks ago and still feel it’s too recent that I may cry thinking about some of these characters – their kindness, their bravery, their sacrifices, and their lives.  This book would be in my top 5 for 2016 for sure.  Based on the true story of a former cruise ship with 10,000 refugees on board fleeing from East Prussia at the end of WWII.  A ship with about 8,500 too many passengers and torpedoed by the Russians.  Our group of strangers all have different beautiful and heartbreaking experiences. A story that stays with the reader, especially knowing it’s based on a true story.
  • The School for Unusual Girls (2015) – Kathleen Baldwin                                                    Stranje House series (2015, 2016, 2017)
    • In 1841, a feisty daughter who likes to study science is not necessarily a good thing.  Gergiana is not obedient and she is sent off to a Miss. Stranje, whose boarding house is known for breaking the will of the strongest female and shaping her into the type of female respectable for high society….. or so it is believed.  In a house full of smart, adventurous, females who don’t fit the normal roles in society, these young ladies are educated and personal skills encouraged.  Did I mention they are spies assisting the British Army?
  • Spontaneous (2016) – Aaron Starmer
    • Back to seniors in high school just wanting to graduate, but suddenly they begin to suffer from spontaneous combustion.  Oddly humorous, often poignant, and certainly odd, but an attention grabber.  This is entertaining and also makes us think to live our lives focused on the here and now because – poof – (or Boom! most likely), we could be gone at any moment.
  • Sweet (2015) – Emmy Laybourne
    • One of the most crazy plots for sure (even more than her series Monument 14, one of my all time favorites), but the underline of addiction and corporate greed certainly is not so far fetched.  To put it bluntly, a cruise ship full of celebrities, overweight non-celebrities, and plenty of cameras set out to sea with a hot new product on board.  Solu is a sweetener that will help people lose weight.  It seems too good to be true until the pounds begin falling off the people on board.  Soon they are addicted, shrunken versions of themselves, and they behavior changes.  For the few people not taking Solu it becomes a matter of survival trapped out at sea.
  • The War That Saved My Life (2015) – Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    • Another historical fiction from WWII, but this one is about the British children sent from London to the country for safety.  But the “rescue” has a second meaning for Ada, a 9 year old with a disability whose mother kept her locked in the one room apartment in London.  Now in the countryside, Ada and her brother have found kindness from a reluctant caregiver and Ada finds both safety and love in a new family.  It’s a beautiful story on how families can be created by love, not just DNA.

 

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) – Marie Lu

Action, alternating narration, death, diversity in YA, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Series

Three different groups of people continue to fight for power and their desire to be the one ruler in the final installment following  The Young Elites and The Rose Society.

Adelina is where she wants to be after the first two installments of this trilogy and that is as the White Wolf ruler.  She has reversed all prejudice and killings of the marked (those with powers) and has reversed the hatred she and her people faced and now in pure revenge fashion, aims it towards her former perpetrators.  She, along with her Rose Society of warriors, ensures that all marked (those formerly dubbed the ‘malfettos’) are respected in society. Her anger, and the voices in her head, make her self-conscious, paranoid, and cruel.

A few countries away her sister Violetta’s health is failing and a  prediction given earlier that the Elites will lose their powers and die seems to be coming true.  Violetta is protected by a powerful group of Elites – the same group that used to work with Adelina.  The Daggers know Adelina has gone off the deep end with her quest for revenge. They are another group vying for power.

Then there is Queen Maeve, one of the best female characters since Lady Macbeth, who harbors the two men that she brought back from death – and not with their former humanity.  Enzo, the former Malfetto Prince is still as powerful, but will kill more easily and Maeve must realize that her youngest brother, the one she always protected, is now more harmful than she realized.  Better think twice before bringing people back from the Underworld.  So Maeve, her soldiers, and her half-dead violent men are the third group.

Soon all sides collide in a battle of skill, power, and death.  People are captured by the other side and no one seems safe from each other or from the new threat they all face as marked malfettos, but a larger issue faces the powerful marked leaders: they are losing their powers.  A prophecy that was shared in the second book of the series seems to be coming true and now these strong leaders and enemies must come together for their own survival.  As battles continue, more people die (seriously – it’s like a Game of Thrones season), we wonder who will survive, who will retain power, and who will be the last leader standing. As the Elites travel to find the Gods and into the Underworld in order to learn why their powers lessen, more die on their journey.  This is a conclusion to the series that was focused on power and ruling an empire, but resolves in characters finding forgiveness, peace, love, and loyalty.

All in all after a violent, power hungry series, the Elites all finish mostly happily – if they were lucky enough to survive – and it’s a sweet ending, full circle all the way.

Holding Up the Universe – Jennifer Niven

diversity in YA, families, Favorites, gay characters

Jennifer Niven continues to bring together two unlikely people with the characters of Libby Strout (the fattest teen in America) and Jack Masselin, who cannot recognizes faces.  After years of Libby being home-bound (and losing hundreds of pounds) she reenters the world of public school, years after she had to be removed from her house by a crane.  Libby has overcome her mother’s death and faces high school bravely and with a fierce sense of humor.  Jack, always trying to fit in with those around him so that they don’t notice his moments of confusion at not recognizing his friends, remembers Libby from the night her house was taken apart so that an overweight girl could be lifted from it.

Now in high school, Jack gets caught up in a cruel game of ‘fat girl rodeo’ and he and Libby are linked together beginning with the prank and ending with group sessions and community service.  Libby is brave throughout the story, hardly letting teasing affect her.  She dances, has a quick wit, and knows people have seen the news story of her years ago, but doesn’t let it define her.  Soon she is also the only one Jack has confided into about his Prosopagnosia disorder.  An unlikely friendship for sure, but it is one with humor and support.

“We’re all weird and damaged in our own way. You’re not the only one.”

In the bravest move Libby could imagine, she proves to students – and herself – that she IS wanted, that everyone has insecurities, and that she is alive and present.  She encourages everyone to be proud of themselves and dance!  With a unique challenge/diagnosis pairing, the plot is original and really focuses on being true to yourself and loving what makes you – You!  There is a lot of cussing in this one though which is why I have it as 14 or over.


I kept thinking of the title and wondered if ‘holding up the universe’ was the weight on Libby’s shoulders, or thinking back to her substantial weight gain after her mother’s death, but finally I think it’s about how everyone is connected.  It’s a collective togetherness.

On a side note

– there is some backlash on the internet about Niven’s portrayal of obesity and the few moments Libby doubts her worth.  Instead of focusing on those fictional thoughts, the more significant portrayal of Libby is one who is fiercely strong, funny, kind, brave, and happy.  In the letter she writes to everyone/anyone, she gives worth to everyone, no matter their intelligence, size, race, or skill.  Some also think her portrayal of a cognitive disorder is romanticizing mental defects and focuses too severely on prosopagnosia.  Niven always researches for her books and writes in a respectful, profound, and delicate way.  I’m sure, like every disorder there is a range of severity, and she focused on Jack’s as severe.  As always though, this is fiction.  Enjoy fiction and know the overall tone is one of kindness, being true to yourself, and seeing past the labels of high school.

As always, I love Jennifer Niven and find her writing beautiful and that the story is always worth reading.

“Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”

Faceless – Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Books Worth Crying Over, families, Favorites, Female Leads

Maisie, on a morning jog, becomes the victim of a freak accident.  Lightening strikes a tree causing a large branch to fall on electrical wires and Maisie is severely burned.  She does not remember the event, but wakes in the hospital after being in a medically induced coma.  Before the accident she was looking forward to Junior Prom, her jogs, and trying to ignore her fighting parents.  Now, waking months after the accident her injuries are worse than 3rd degree burns.  With half of her face gone, bones missing, and bandages along the left side of her body, Maisie’s life is altered forever.

With the possibility of a partial face transplant, Maisie must face (no pun intended) if moving on means moving on without the face she has known.  Can she return to her old life, but with a new face?  The transplant would possibly allow her to smell, taste, and feel the skin on her face, which is what she wants, but the thought of someone else’s face staring back in a reflection might be more difficult than healing physically.

As Maisie struggles to adjust both in the new flesh and immerse herself back into the high school setting, she begins a dangerous self-medication, or rather not-medicating.  On top of her own thoughts, she also overhears the opinions of her classmates and boyfriend Chirag who are struggling with the “new” Maisie as well.  As physical therapy continues, Maisie also goes to a support group with people coping with their physical ailments.  There she meets Adam who never knew the “old” Maisie.  And in Group, Maisie finally finds people who can understand what she is going through.

“You have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else. Because it’s only when we love ourselves that we feel worthy of someone else’s love.”

The struggles, insecurities, and anger are truthful and beautifully written.  Maisie’s inner thoughts are honest and real, even once she has finished mourning her loss.  She has a few moments when she is able to joke and laugh again.  The process of healing (or even not healing) is long and different for everyone (as shown by people in her support group) and Sheinmel covers it with care, respect, and realistically.  With the whole last section focused on processing information, it being OK to be angry, resentfulness, jealous, and mad at the world, there is precious time given to the process of understanding and the psychological aspects of healing.  Maisie constantly refers to her current life as “Maisie 2.0” since she is no longer who she was. But, as the character Adam says, (paraphrasing), life continues to move and experiences shape you, whether old Maisie or 2.0 Maisie were here.  The fact is YOU are here and what will YOU do?

This is a beautiful story.  A top favorite like All The Bright Places.

 

The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler

diversity in YA, families, Favorites, love, mental illness, Safe Bets

Jude Hernandez is 18, the much younger sister of three older sisters who live around the country, and is spending her summer before college in an effort to fix her dad’s old motorcycle.  Why?  Because her dad, Papi, is at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and Jude sees how each time Papi speaks of his summer riding the motorcycle, he lights up.  The only problem is the 19 year old who is the hired worker to fix the motorcycle is Emilio Vargas – the youngest brother of the Vargas boys who have broken the elder Hernandez sisters’ hearts.

Jude (JuJu) was a 12-year-old preteen when she took the oath to swear off the Vargas family with her older sisters.  Surely now that the eldest sisters are living in different states, and are grown, the juvenile oath doesn’t hold…. the bike can get fixed before the summer and her sisters will never know Emilio Vargas was invited into the Hernandez household.  The only problem is Emilio shares the good looks of the Vargas family, and JuJu not only relies on him to restore the motorcycle, but begins to rely on him during the summer she cares for her ailing dad.

With sisterly humor, family struggles, a light romance, and a daughter’s love wanting to do something for her father who is disappearing from their lives.  Her love for her dad surpasses the sisterly oath.  In a light, entertaining read, this is an entertaining romantic and even silly story of a family and first romance.

Court of Fives – Kate Elliott

Authors, Award Nominee, families, Favorites, Female Leads, Series

The intro is part Game of Thrones, Shakespeare, and mystery – sign me up!

Five sisters, one of which is Jessamy, a strong willed daughter who seeks adventure and freedom, are prim and proper born to a family rising in power and expected to behave as the highborn.  Since her father was born poor, but whose status has elevated due to his career and her mother is a commoner (who her father cannot marry!) the daughters are constantly insulted and considered commoner’s in their family’s new elevated status.  They are not the same as highborn, yet they are not commoners.  If this wasn’t challenging enough, Jessamy is a free spirit who wants to compete in the games of the Court of Fives.

The Fives is part gladiator games and part Ninja Warrior with alternating challenges of strength and flexibility.  The contestants can be anyone who can afford the entry fee and they are masked so identities are unknown.  Jessamy finds a way to enter, but she knows she must lose for winning would bring shame to her father and family – and they already have enough obstacles against them.  Once her secret is discovered, by a fellow highborn contender, her life gets even more complicated.   As Jessamy struggles with her want to compete, she must fight the urge of The Fives, but also with the want to see the boy she cannot.

When a death causes a life twist to Jessamy and her sisters, she both gets what she’s always wanted and also what she’s always feared – how does she choose between her dream and her personal freedom or her devotion to her family?

This is action, entertainment, character growth, and facing how allegiances made from the strangest of partners can be the strongest of partners [see, Shakespearean]. The writing is both old fashioned and beautiful, similarly as Jane Austen or other period pieces.  I have a new insult: “Your argument is a sieve that cannot hold water”

There are plenty of twists, dangers to overcome, but mostly Jess learns that decisions aren’t always clear and even after made, sometimes there was no choice at all, but an unfortunate ending to those who do not control their own lives.


Series continues with: Poisoned Blade and a 3rd untitled.

The Detour – S.A. Bodeen

Action, Favorites

This is like the Young Adult version of Stephen King’s Misery – a plot I still do not want to read as an adult.   I began this novel with some reluctance, but as it’s up for the Arkansas Teen Book Award (and I must read it as I’m on the committee), I remembered I am an adult and I can handle a sort of scary plot.  So here we go –

When a  rich, beautiful YA author (17 years old) crashes her car on the way to a conference she is rescued(??) by a young girl and her mother and Livvy assumes she will get to go home.  Not only is that not true, but she is locked in a basement and told that she must remember what she has done that would warrant this treatment.  As if that weren’t scary enough, the child that is 50% responsible for Livvy’s captive state, is a bit sadistic as well.  Known simply as “flute girl” since she was playing the flute on the side of the road which led to Livvy’s car crash, the pain she inflicts is sometimes worse than the mental games of her mother.  [Are we sure this is a young adult novel?  I’m still not feeling safe with that classification choice]

Peg keeps blaming Livvy for something that she destroyed.  Although Livvy has no idea what she has done, she begins to plan ways she can escape.  It seems each ray of hope she finds or hope she has for being rescued (they will find her car, right?) is quickly shattered by the cold Peg, evil “Flute Girl”, or a perverted cousin trying to get into Livvy’s room.  While Livvy spends her day napping and planning, she also flashbacks to her rough childhood of mean girls who teased, of hair pulling she inflicted upon herself, and the dread that her private journal in her car will be found by Peg – who can use words just as violently as her hands.

This is an insane story – but so fabulous!  There are twists, surprises, and I was shocked many times.  Well worth the read and one of my votes for sure.  Teens and adults will enjoy it, but I wonder if we will get more of “Flute Girl” …. that girl is crazy.

The Glass Sword -Victoria Aveyard

Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, Series

Oh conflicted Mare Barrow, power-hungry and deceiving Maven, and crazy Shakespearean Queen Elara….. how I’ve been waiting for your return!

Aveyard picks up right where our beloved rebels within the Scarlet Guard left off – rescuing Mare and taking Cal prisoner – but the newly crowned KING Maven is on their tails with the Silver army and declaring Cal a murderous traitor and Mare an enemy to be killed.  Maven no longer hides his power hungry persona or distain for the Reds and now, with the crown, he holds the power to strengthen the attack on the Reds.  Since he also knows that Mare is not the only Red with powers he wants to capture any powerful Newbloods as well as the Scarlet Guard. Speaking of the Scarlet Guard, it is stronger and smarter than Mare realized and Farley, although strong and a good leader, is not the leader at all.

Like previous series, this second installment is full of action and the plot progresses from the very beginning.  The second is often my favorite of series from titles like Catching Fire and The Rose Society and this one continues that favoritism.

Our strong and conflicting characters now realize they must rely on one another as Mare, Captain Fairley, Cal, and Shade break away from one group of captors and into the clutches of another.  It seems Maven’s power has stretched through the land showing  the false story he created of Cal’s treachery in manipulating the truth for his gain.  With the lists of Newbloods (the same list Maven is using to kill Reds with power), the crew flies among villages to try and build an army of Reds with power against Maven and the silvers. Mare struggles with no longer being the Mare from the Barrows, nor the pretend Silver of the palace.  As she finds the rebellion leader within her, she struggles with what she has lost of her home-life, but also benefiting from traits and skills she learned from the Silvers.  How can she find her true self when her drive for justice contradicts her ideals?  Was her time with the Silvers actually helpful to the leader she has become?

“To rise. And rise alone.” It echoes like the howl of a wolf.  “I see you as you could become, no longer the lightning, but the storm. The storm that will swallow the world entirely”   (306)

As Mare and team gather more Newbloods, she hears others are being killed and tortured by Elara’s mind control and are even facing fighting for the Silvers.  Mare takes on the pressure of leadership and fear takes its toll on Mare.  As her confidence and pride succumbs to grief and guilt, she realizes all too late that a leader can still trust the people near her.  With plans of an attack and a path of justice, she is caught off guard and her future is uncertain once she reunites with Maven.  It’s still a battle between the Scarlet Guard and the Silvers, the difference now is that Mare is willing to risk herself to protect those she loves – even at the cost of herself.

“If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter” (250)

 

As with any political struggle and a sudden rise to fame, Mare has soon lost the closeness of her inner circle as she has made decisions they do not believe were right nor necessary.  Only when a trusted person returns to her life does Mare realize how she can still maintain some of her ideals and values she had in the Burrow even as she takes on a new  role with command in the Scarlet Guard.  She is told

“No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone.  They become that way, through choice and circumstance.  The latter you cannot control, but the former…” (411)

The sequel ends with Mare in the lowest place she could find herself and it appears the Scarlet Guard cannot help.  Oh, and of course the side plot of Maven’s to bring down the Reds and Newbloods…. the 5,000 teenagers being sent to battle that now are without Mare’s rescue.  Who will win the next power struggle between the Silvers and the Scarlet Guard?  Will the Newbloods continue to be accepted and protected by the Scarlet Guard or will Maven achieve his genocide of these Reds with power?  Then there’s Mare herself, now at full control of her enemies.


The series continues with Book 3 and Book 4, both untitled.  But to quench your thirst, Aveyard has created two prequels that are already published:

Queen Song (The Red Queen #0.1) and Steel Scars (The Red Queen #0.2) which give us background to the first queen, Queen Coriane and Fairley, respectively.  A continuation of strong female characters I’m sure.

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Action, diversity in YA, families, Fantasy, Favorites, gay characters, mental illness

This is a funny combination of fantasy and realistic fiction for a group of seniors in high school whose town seems to face some type of fantasy end-of-the-world scenario every few years: vampires, ghosts, mystical deaths. Besides trying to survive strict parents, these teens need to simply survive.

In the heart of the novel is Mikey and his family – overbearing mom with dreams of becoming a US Congresswoman, alcoholic dad, a recovering anorexic sister, and a little sister who all adore and is a typical 10 year old in love with a boy band.  His school friends are a small group consisting of the missionary’s beautiful African-American daughter whom he has liked for years, a gay friend with a Goddess as a grandmother and who has the ability to communicate with all felines and also has healing powers, and his older sister Mel who is repeating senior year, due to the anorexia the previous year.  This is a mix of the quirky, well written, TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fantasy elements and a modern story of families and friends. Trying to survive high school cliques and demanding parents is hard enough, but with the occasional mystical mystery, teenagers dying far too frequently, and hoping the high school isn’t blown up (again) makes this a comical read.

The group takes on a few newcomers as more weird things occur across town: dead dear coming back to life, blue light shooting through the sky, and more Indie kids die each day.  I love how the chapters bounce between Mikey’s narration of his high school life and family and a factual account of how the Immortals invade the town – and the Finns, Satchel, Kerouac, etc find their demise.  As they get closer to graduation, the weirdness and deaths continue and finally Jared admits not everyone can be a hero and perhaps the friends should just survive and get out of town after graduation.

Other elements: alcoholic father, anorexia, OCD, gay characters.  After graduation, as the friends sit observing their high school burning after the Immortals blew it up, a touching realistic thought comes from Jared, you know – the 1/4 God who can heal animals and people – and that is that everyone has stuff in their lives to deal with, whether it’s illness, being one of the Indie kids, or being a deity.  Since Ness can bounce between reality and this sort of fantasy element so well, it comes off light and humorous at times, but there is a deeper lesson.   Teenagers who feel out of place, will find a comfort in this group of friends and the town that seems to have unfair luck with soul eating ghosts, vampires, and Immortals.  I laughed a lot, I found the friendships real and loyal, and I also enjoyed the plot-within-a-plot of the Immortals and Indie kids.

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

diversity in YA, Favorites, Read-a-Likes

I feel I should apologize for judging a book based on the description – I was sucked into this story so fast I was shocked.  While a ‘bubble girl’ is a bit far fetched, the writing, family, and witty banter between teens is quick and enjoyable.  You can tell it will probably be a fatal romance, but it didn’t keep me from rooting for those early bunt cake jokes between windows between Madeline and Olly: two oddballs, but for different reasons who find a connection.  Maddy is a deep character for many reasons – fatal illness, highly witty and intelligent, biracial, forgiving, and funny.  As she realizes living her life to the fullest, even if it’s a short one, is worth it.  Towards the end she reflects on how her life has been affected by love.

Love.

Love makes people crazy.

Loss of love makes people crazy.

These two are cute.  Not quite so put together as Hazel and Augustus (The Fault in Our Stars) who even though they have hardships with their health, they seem overly self assured at flirting and building a relationship.  Madeline and Olly are awkward.  Madeline questions her outfit to meet him, even though she only owns white shirts and jeans, and Olly, with his parkour, uses the control over his body when he can’t control him home life or Madeline’s illness.

One Madeline’s mom learns that her nurse has let Olly into the house (after decontamination of course), she is livid and fires the nurse, and Madeline is heartbroken.  This leads her to do something drastic and try to live life to the fullest.

————————- Page 264 —————————

From Everything, Everything, we go to “Holy Crap, Holy Crap”  A shocking realization a ‘al We Were Liars (but not for the same reason, obviously) this story begins nearly a new plot right at the end.  Fabulous.

There’s a continued questioning of the infinite and how life moments are connected to lead to our identies, our experiences, and how we become who we are.  As Maddy loses her once held beliefs of other people and must adapt to new truths, she does a perfect amount of teen questioning.  There are a couple of serious downers to this book, but some are realistic enough that it makes for a great story that one’s reality may not always be how it’s perceived, from a mother’s relationship to the lives of neighbors.  Still the little escapism Maddie and Olly find first online and then …….. (avoiding a spoiler)……. are both nicely timed and a happier distraction from the more serious plots of this story.


Read-a-likes: The Fault in Our Stars, All the Bright Places, and any teen love story where someone faces loss.