mini reviews

Mini Reviews: New Takes on Old Tales

I’m sharing some more mini reviews today as I catch up from my blogging break. The three books featured in this post all offer new takes on old classics: The Canterbury Tales, Prince Dracula, and the common tropes/themes of YA scifi. That last one will make more sense when you read my review of Nyxia. Some were certainly more successful than others, so keep reading to find out which of these I’d recommend!

Feral YouthFeral Youth by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feral Youth is a YA retelling of The Canterbury Tales, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson, so I was incredibly excited to read this. This anthology follows a group of teen delinquents at wilderness camp who are on a 3-day trek back to camp, and have a story telling competition along the way.

The stories in this collection run the gamut of genres: there is folklore, fanfic, creepy, and contemporary. Each character’s story is written by a different YA author, with Shaun David Hutchinson taking the narrator’s perspective to weave it all together. I really enjoyed this premise, and I of course liked some stories more than others, but I still enjoyed nearly every single story. Feral Youth has great representation, both in terms of race and sexual orientation, and it’s a collection fundamentally about knowing that you’re more than your mistakes. This book confronts the treatment of “at risk” kids, disproportionately those who are people of color and often poor, and exposes the ways in which our society doesn’t give them a fair shot, much less an honest second chance.

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nyxia is the first book in a new trilogy about teens traveling to a new planet who have to decide what they’re willing to risk for the fortune of a lifetime. Our main character and narrator is Emmett, and he and the other teens are competing for spots to mine the mysterious substance called Nyxia on the distant planet Eden. It must be said that Nyxia is pretty typical YA scifi – there’s an evil corporation, teens in space, and the questionable ethics of colonizing planets with a native population.

The world building in Nyxia is super basic, although there will be an entirely new world/planet that we’ll surely learn about in the next book. I thought this would be a rare YA without romance, but nope. About 80% into this book, there is a forced instalove relationship that made no sense other than to create unnecessary angst for Emmett. It was honestly so dumb that I nearly gave up reading at that point. The entire book is just the competition to win a spot on Eden, and as you can probably tell, that was so monotonous. A trilogy is absolutely unnecessary, because this first book could have easily been edited down and combined with the next book. This book was 300 pages of teens repeating the same events in a competition for 200 days, and it was ridiculous. Nyxia was admittedly enjoyable enough, but unexciting and unoriginal.

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2)Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell as they attend a forensics program in Romania, but find themselves in the midst of another investigation when murders occur in a similar fashion to Vlad the Impaler. While I enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper last year, I don’t love this series quite as much as others. That being said, I do adore Audrey Rose and Thomas, and their banter. The best thing about these books, by far, is that they’re so feminist. Audrey Rose makes a place for herself in a male dominated field (as was…every field in the 19th century), and I really enjoy seeing her assert herself in the numerous situations in which she’s discounted for being female. Audrey Rose doesn’t have time for your misogyny. There is a great running theme in this novel, in which Audrey Rose wonders if marrying Thomas will compromise her autonomy, and how she’s unwilling to have any man, including Thomas, speak for her and belittle her. Those great character moments are some of the strongest in this book.

However, the whole Dracula thing was just bonkers. It made no sense and felt very unsatisfying, and I especially didn’t like that it was tied to a certain character. Overall, the Dracula angle just seemed dumb and gimmicky. And that’s really saying something, considering the first book was about Jack the Ripper. It’ll be interesting to see what these two get up to in American for the third book.

Rating: 3.25

*I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

View all my reviews

If you’ve read any of the books mentioned in this post, let me know what you thought of them!

 

book review

Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy

I have recently, to my shock and horror, gotten back into the world of Shadowhunters. I read Lady Midnight and felt as though I had somehow missed out on certain bits of information between City of Heavenly Fire and this new series. The internet told me that information was provided in Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy, a short story collection chronicling Simon’s time at the Academy. I decided to read this, and give a short review of each of the stories below. To be completely honest, the characters from TMI have always been my least favorite (to the point of actually low key hating certain people), so I wasn’t terribly excited about spending more time with them. However, I told myself it was worth it to get more backstories on the Herondales and Blackthorns and others. I was…well, I was wrong.

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tales from shadhowhunter“Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. The events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. At least Simon’s trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. Written by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, these moving and hilarious short stories are perfect for the fan who just can’t get enough of the Shadowhunters.”

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Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Clare & Brennan): Simon’s arrival at Shadowhunter Academy is less than impressive, both for Simon and myself. The point of this is world building and creating a foundation for this whole overall story, and it was a rather unexciting way to kick off the collection. While I quickly fell in love with George Lovelace, the rest of this was just fine. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

The Lost Herondale (Clare & Wasserman): This story really represented how messed up The Clave is, and how ridiculous Shadowhunter law can be. Sed lex, dura lex indeed. Like pretty much everyone else, I have a soft spot for the Herondales, and this story broke my heart a bit. I loved Catarina’s part in this most of all. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Whitechapel Fiend (Clare & Johnson): WILL AND TESSA AT IT AGAIN Y’ALL. I’ll probably never get over the fact that Will uses any excuse possible to get Brother Zachariah/Uncle Jem to the London Institute. But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed this story about Tessa, Will, and co. as adults doing their Shadowhunter thing to defeat “Jack the Ripper.” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Nothing But Shadows (Clare & Brennan): Easily my favorite story in this collection, in which we follow James Herondale during his time at the Academy. I honestly had no interest in the upcoming The Last Hours trilogy, which chronicles Tessa and Will’s kids’ adventures. This story, however, changed that completely. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Evil We Love (Clare & Wasserman): I was so intrigued by this one, because it’s about Robert Lightwood being in The Circle with Valentine, Jocelyn, and the others. However, it was by far my least favorite story in this collection. The combination of Izzy/Simon angst and Robert being a total asshole both as a person and to his parabatai completely put me off this story. I swear to god, these Lightwoods y’all. ⭐️⭐️ stars.

Pale Kings and Princes (Clare & Wasserman): This should have been an amazing story about the injustice done to Helen Blackthorn, and her father’s time in Faerie. Instead, this was nearly ruined by the unending Izzy/Simon angst. Look, I have never really shipped these two because their relationship dynamic has always driven me up a freaking wall. This story, and the previous one, reminded my why I literally do not give a shit about them. I know this collection is about Simon, but AT WHAT COST. My sanity, clearly. ⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Bitter of Tongue (Clare & Brennan): Ok, this one was about Mark Blackthorn and how the Clave abandoned him, and I loved that aspect. Hearing Mark talk about his experiences with the Wild Hunt and his family was heartbreaking. The Academy portion of this story was, as expected, underwhelming and thus dragged down the overall reading experience. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Fiery Trial (Clare & Johnson): I did not understand this story. I understood the point, but not why the authors chose to go about it this way. I’m always up for more Blackthorns, but wasn’t into the Lake Lyn-induced “are we drift compatible?” acid trip that Simon and Clary went on (against their will, I have to point out). This was just kind of dumb and underwhelming. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Born to Endless Night (Clare & Brennan): Look, was this abandoned warlock baby story completely out of nowhere and absurd and out of place within the overall collection? Yep. Did I love it anyway because of Malec being happy? YES.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Angels Twice Descending (Clare & Wasserman): The final story in this collection was predictable and underwhelming. I wasn’t surprised by what happened, because the entire collection had pretty blatantly been leading up to this. It was still heartbreaking, but didn’t really resonate. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Overall, I have to rate Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy between 3 and 3.5 stars (I guess 3.25, but quarter stars are just silly). This entire collection was a bit underwhelming, even though it provided some great backstories and information that will surely be important in future novels. I don’t think you have to read this before Lady Midnight, but it certainly provides context for the characters and conflicts in The Dark Artifices trilogy.

Have you read Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy? Let me know your thoughts!

arc review

Ramona Blue

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Title: Ramona Blue
Author: Julie Murphy
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins
Format: eARC*

“Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.”

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It’s been a week since I finished Ramona Blue, and I still don’t have words for this book. I’ve put off writing this review because I don’t know how to explain that this book has stolen a piece of my heart. I loved Ramona Blue in a way that I haven’t truly loved a book in quite some time. And not because it was magical, or lush, or clever. Because it was true.

This book portrays an experience rarely seen in literature, much less YA contemporary. Ramona Blue is set in the Gulf Coast, a part of the deep South that is completely unique and unto itself in terms of culture and lifestyle. I was born and raised a short drive from Ramona’s fictional town (in Louisiana instead of Ramona’s Mississippi), and my childhood was spent traveling to places Ramona frequents in this book: Biloxi, Gulfport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge. Reading this book was like reading about home, from Eulogy’s Mardi Gras parades to the experience of being a small town devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ramona’s story resonated so deeply with me, because in many ways it’s my story too. There were so many moments where it felt as though Julie Murphy had plucked memories from my brain and written them out onto the pages.

At only seventeen, Ramona is used to putting herself last. The money she’s saved up, dreaming about moving away from Eulogy, will now be sacrificed to support her pregnant older sister. She lives in a cramped trailer with her family, and in so many ways Ramona is suffocated. Her sense of obligation to her family means her dreams get pushed aside. Thankfully Ramona ultimately realizes that she doesn’t have to give up on her own ambitions, but getting to that point isn’t easy.

Ramona is a teenager with the weight of the world – and her family – on her shoulders. Part of her journey in this book is continually figuring out who she is. Until the summer of this novel, Ramona has only ever been attracted to girls, and considers herself a lesbian. But reuniting with Freddie and realizing she’s developing feelings for him throws Ramona’s self of self (or at least, sexual identity) into question. I think Julie Murphy did an excellent job portraying that self-examination, and provides some much needed and very positive bisexual representation. This is about a girl figuring out who she is and who she’s attracted to. Ramona doesn’t suddenly stop liking girls just because she also likes Freddie.

Ultimately, I loved Ramona so fiercely, and Julie Murphy for writing this book. Ramona has secured a spot as one of my all-time favorite characters, and a spot in my heart. Ramona Blue is a contemporary story that’s all heart, and not to be missed. Sadly I can’t make any of the stops on the book tour to say it in person, but…Julie Murphy, if by some chance you’re reading this: thank you.

Rating: 4.5 stars

arc review

ARC Review: The Upside of Unrequited

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Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Format: eARC*

“Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?”

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I finally read Becky Albertalli’s cult favorite debut novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda right before diving into The Upside of Unrequited, and I officially get the hype for this other. I also definitely recommend reading Simon first, since Upside is a companion sequel and characters from Simon pop up in this new story.

I expected to enjoy The Upside of Unrequited, but I didn’t expect to identify so strongly with Molly’s experience. Becky Albertalli perfectly verbalizes how it feels to be “behind” everyone else in terms of relationships and sexual experience, especially when you’re overweight. There’s a scene in which Molly mentions how aware she is of her stomach rolling over her waistband, and how wide her thighs look, while she’s sitting beside a cute boy. That scene, and so many nuanced ones like it, brought tears to my eyes because of how strongly I related to them. I can’t remember the last time I truly saw myself reflected in a character like this.

I loved the diversity infused throughout the cast of characters. Molly is biracial and Jewish, and medicated for her mental illnesses. She has two moms who finally get married over the course of the novel, because The Upside of Unrequited is set against the backdrop of the legalization of gay marriage in the United States. The family dynamic was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing how each member of Molly’s family interacts with one another, and how they all have special, individual bonds. Albertalli also highlights the ways that relationships, especially familial ones, change over time. Molly and Cassie’s relationship goes through a huge period of upheaval in this book, and both girls have to come to terms with what that means.

However, I did find many characters grating, including Molly in part but mainly Cassie. In the beginning, she came across like such a fierce character that I fully expected to adore her, but that went rapidly downhill. Although I may not have enjoyed Cassie personally, I still understood where her character is coming from…even if I didn’t like the way she handled things.

There are so many honest, if awkward, conversations throughout the course of this novel, and I loved seeing those represented. One of my favorite aspects of Albertalli’s novels is that sense of honesty, that she writes believable people in believable situations, and there is such truth in her stories. If Becky Albertalli isn’t on your radar, that needs to change ASAP!

Rating: 4 stars

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for a free and honest review.

arc review

Review: Geekerella

geekerella

Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
Format: eARC*

“Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.”

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Geekerella is a fandom-inspired Cinderella retelling about Elle and her love of a scifi show called Starfield. While I was intrigued by the premise, unfortunately this fell short for me. A major reason why I find Cinderella retellings unsuccessful is that the evil stepmother and stepsisters rarely, if ever, come across as believable. That was certainly the case with Geekerella, and Elle’s stepmom and sisters are cruel for literally no reason. As a reader, I honestly hate this “evil just because” trope and find it to be a result of lazy writing.

Another issue that I had with this Cinderella reimagining is that it’s a little too on the nose, therefore making the entire story feel unbearably derivative. Despite the modern day setting and fandom details, this ultimately didn’t feel original enough. The only unique aspect of Geekerella is fandom, which I appreciated as a link between Elle and her late father, but otherwise I felt lukewarm about. This was especially true for the scenes that take place at the con itself, since they lacked the excitement and spark that make cons so fun in real life.

It was interesting to get Darien’s POV alternating with Elle’s, because his story approaches Starfield and fandom from a different perspective. However, in the overall scheme of things I didn’t feel like his voice added that much. Basically, this was just an incredibly disappointing read.

Geekerella combined two things that I rarely find to be pulled off well – retellings and the fandom experience – so maybe I was never going to love this. That being said, I think Geekerella focused too much on closely copying the original instead of becoming something new onto itself. If you’re still intrigued to pick this up, I’d recommend saving your money and checking it out from the library instead.

Rating: 2 stars

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

arc review

Alex, Approximately | Five Reasons to Read

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“In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

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Happy Book Birthday to Alex, Approximately! I absolutely adored this YA contemporary of epic romantic comedy proportions, so I’m sharing five reasons why you should read Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

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  1. It’s a You’ve Got Mail retelling. That’s right, one of the most iconic ‘90s romcoms, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, gets the YA treatment and Jenn Bennett totally pulls it off. Bennett updates the plot and characters in a way that feels fresh and modern, while still remaining true to this tell of hate to love with unknown identities.
  1. The romance is next-level swoon worthy. Bailey and Porter have one of my top requirements for a ship: witty banter with a healthy side of hate to love dynamics. I also loved that they manage to stump one another every now and then, but the scenes in which they volley quips back and forth were cute and clever. The development of their relationship felt realistic and not rushed, and the reader gets to see them progress over the course of an entire summer – no instalove here.
  1. Best summer job in YA…ever? Bailey, Porter, and Bailey’s best friend Grace all work at this odd mansion-turned-museum that is, in a word, freaking weird. But the museum felt like a character onto itself, in all of its strange and quirky glory. Scenes between Bailey, Grace, and Porter in the “Hotbox” ticket booth were some of my favorites. I’ve read plenty of YA contemporaries in which our protagonists work at a camp, or some other standard summer job, but the museum in Alex, Approximately takes the cake.
  1. It’s sex positive. We can have an entire conversation about the representation of sex in YA books another today (because oh boy could I write an essay on that topic), but suffice it to say that I’m hyper aware of when books are expressly sex positive or negative. Alex, Approximately is sex positive in all the best ways. There are open, honest conversations about (and portrayals of) sex, masturbation, and female pleasure. I think this kind of representation is extremely important, and Jenn Bennett did an excellent job of incorporating this aspect of Bailey and Porter’s relationship into the overall story.
  1. I love a good family dynamic. It’s no secret that I hate the ways YA commonly deals with parents: they are either nonexistent or uninvolved for the most part. Thankfully, Alex, Approximately has some truly amazing families. Bailey’s dad is earnest and obsessed with Settlers of Catan, and he was such a joy to read. Porter’s family has a surfing legacy, and I loved seeing their dynamics in their shop and home. Even though these characters are also dealing with their own issues, I really enjoyed spending time with the different families in this novel.

Well, those are five reasons why I think you should read Alex, Approximately when it comes out on April 4 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster! If you need even more reasons to, check out my video review below.

Let me know what ‘90s romantic comedy you think should get its own retelling in the comments!

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for a free and honest review.

 

book review

ARC Review: Goodbye Days

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Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books | Penguin Random House
Format: eARC*

“Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.

Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?”

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It must be said right off the bat – Goodbye Days is sad af, y’all. But really, how could a book about a boy who loses his best friends be anything other than heartbreaking? Jeff Zentner manages this with a deft hand, and gives Carver (and the reader) enough hope and support to keep going.

Goodbye Days features two things that do not get enough representation, especially in YA: positive, supportive male friendships and actually present parental figures. The group dynamic between the “Sauce Crew” – Carver, Mars, Blake, and Eli – is beautifully portrayed, and something I cannot remember coming across before. They’re teenage boys, so there are plenty of fart jokes, but there’s also an undeniable closeness between them. These boys are open and honest with each other, and it’s so refreshing to see close male friendships in YA.

Often in YA, parents are either nonexistent or uninvolved, which is an even greater indication of fiction than love triangles, in my opinion. An unexpectedly wonderful part of Goodbye Days is that there are cases of parental figures that are involved in their children’s lives and present in their grief. Not only do we have Carver’s parents who are desperate to protect their son from potential criminal charges, but the parents (and Nana, in Blake’s case) of Carver’s friends spend their “goodbye days” with Carver. Through those parents, the reader experiences many different types of grief, and sees how loss affects everyone differently. While I certainly enjoyed certain parental figures more than others (hello Nana, peace out Eli’s dad), I appreciated that we had so many parents in this book. YA authors, take note.

There is amazing representation not only of the painful mix of grief and guilt Carver experiences, but also therapy and anxiety. I loved that we see Carver seek help for his panic attacks, and that he seeks out a therapist and medication combination that helps him. The scenes in which Carver has a panic attack were so powerful, because I have been there before and thought I am going to die I cannot possibly survive this. Zentner doesn’t shy away from the harder aspects of grief, and I liked that Carver is still a flawed human being and isn’t beatified through his suffering.

There were a few moments where I thought Goodbye Days stumbled. While I loved Jesmyn as a character, I think the story could have done without a romantic subplot. I would have preferred to see a strong male/female friendship without any romance. Zentner manages to maintain a balance that keeps Goodbye Days from being unbearably sad, but there are times when it almost strays into tragedy porn territory. I think it’s because there are three different goodbye days, with Carver’s own experience, and Jesmyn’s, and then an overarching theme of grief. It was just a bit much at times, for me. Carver sounds a bit too adult and wise for his seventeen years, traumatic events aside, and there’s a propensity for him to wax philosophically in order to end a chapter on some profound note. Even though Carver is a writer, this felt a bit heavy handed.

In terms of inclusivity, the majority of the cast of characters is white. Jesmyn is Filipino, and Mars and his dad are black. One character self-identifies as gay (although his coming out is the extent of that representation, full disclosure), but the rest are implied/assumed to be cishet.

Rating: 4 stars

*I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.