Afterparty

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Title: Afterparty
Author: Ann Redisch Stampler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Edelweiss
Rating: 3/5

Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother — whose name her dad won’t even say out loud. That’s why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her…and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she’s everything Emma is not.

And it may be more than Emma can handle.

Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It’s more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop…

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I wasn’t sure what to rate this book. I like Stampler’s writing style quite a lot, but too many other things fell short.

I am so sick of the good-girl-gone-bad story. I get it. Repressed suburban girls need to have a little fun sometimes. Characters like Emma are getting really cliche and overused in YA, though I will admit Emma did have some unique things behind her story.

Stampler also did a good job showing just how controlling Emma’s father was. A lot of times in this type of story, the parents don’t seem to live up to how bad the teen narrator makes them out to be. I think the clincher with the parent in this book was how he didn’t even allow Emma to keep the real name that her drug-addicted mother gave her.

Another thing I can acknowledge was the unpredictability of the story, at least in terms of the ending. When you first start the book, it seems like it’s going to go in one direction, but then does something different and twisty than what you originally think it’s going to be.

That said, too much of it was same-old same-old for me. Repressed good girl, charismatic best friend who everyone loves, a downward spiral into partying and sex, etc. On the note of partying, I also had a really hard time believing a lot of those scenarios in Stampler’s novel. I just couldn’t imagine parties that crazy and that glamorous really happening. Admittedly, I’ve never been a partier, so my views on this subject should be taken with a grain of salt, but I found myself rolling my eyes at a lot of the melodrama.

This is a weird book for me because I liked the writing, just not the characters or the story. Still, I am convinced that I could love other books by this writer based on the writing style alone, so I’m definitely adding Where it Began to my ever-growing TBR list.

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If You Find Me

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Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

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There are really only two words I need to describe this book: gritty and stunning. When I requested this book last year on NetGalley (yes, I know, I’m horrible at time management when it comes to ARCs), I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. Out of all the debuts I’ve read this year, If You Find Me is probably one of my favorites. It’s also probably one of the most unique books I’ve read this year as well.

For me, the only reasons this book didn’t make five stars is because of certain plausibility issues and because I wish Carey’s music had been a bigger part of the book. I found it hard to believe Carey would speak the way she did when she and her sister both managed to skip a grade in school, though of course someone’s dialect isn’t an indication of their intelligence. I liked Carey’s voice because it was edgy and different, but for some reason I doubted it a few times along the way.

Other than those two things, If You Find Me was amazing. Murdoch makes Carey and Janessa’s lives in the woods so vivid and painful to read and does the same with their new lives with their father. Carey’s journey is both frightening and beautiful, and the strength she shows throughout the story is truly inspiring. Murdoch does a great job portraying Carey’s courage and vulnerability, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

In short, If You Find Me is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and definitely marks Emily Murdoch as an author to watch.

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Burn for Burn

Title: Burn for Burn
Author: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 18th, 2012
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Summary from Goodreads–Lillia has never had any problems dealing with boys who like her. Not until this summer, when one went too far. No way will she let the same thing happen to her little sister.

Kat is tired of the rumours, the insults, the cruel jokes. It all goes back to one person– her ex-best friend– and she’s ready to make her pay.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. And she’s ready to prove it to him.

Three very different girls who want the same thing: sweet, sweet revenge. And they won’t stop until they each had a taste.

Whoa. Well that was a wild ride. Let me slow down for a second and catch my breath…

Okay, so. If you’re looking for a quick, escapist read with juice bursting out of the spine, look no further: you’ve found it. While you can’t expect much substance from any of the characters other than the highly damaged Mary, you can expect a lot of action and, of course, sweet, sweet revenge.

After reading this book, I, for one, would never want to get on Han or Vivian’s bad sides. Their plans for revenge were pretty darn tough, carried out by characters who only seemed to have a conscious after the fact. On that note, I thought it was interesting that though she had a big hand in all three revenge cycles, Kat was the only girl who never seemed to feel an inkling of guilt throughout the story. In fact, she’s the one who gets the last word, only hoping that they get away with what they’ve done.

When I started reading, I didn’t think I would get quite as invested in the characters as I did, since I don’t usually go for the petty-escapist-revenge type of stories. However, I did end up liking or at least being interested in the majority of the characters. Still, I found myself wishing that Kat had a little more substance to her story, although at first I thought it was Lillia who lacked substance as a character (I was proven wrong).

The only character whose desires I was a bit confused by was Mary. I wasn’t sure if she wanted to get revenge on Reeve or for him to fall in love with her. She goes back and forth throughout the book, clearly demonstrating that she had an incredibly unhealthy, dangerous relationship with him. I’m also a little worried for the second book because it seemed like Han and Vivian were trying to introduce a paranormal element with Mary’s seeming ability to make bad things happen.

I was also majorly disappointed by the ending, not realizing there would be a sequel (Fire for Fire, to be released ) until a good 15 minutes of loud ranting had passed. But once I realized this happy fact I felt slightly better. Let the games continue in 2013!

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Stella becomes concerned when her new friend Ruby, a dazzlingly beautiful transfer from Utah, starts dating a much older man.

Honestly, I hated this book. I didn’t like any of the characters. I didn’t relate to any of them and didn’t have much sympathy even for the protagonist. The only reason I bothered slugging through it was because Marshall Cavendish was kind enough to grant me the privilege of reading it for free.

I’ll start with Estelle/Stella. I didn’t believe her. For a girl who supposedly has been raising her younger siblings for a few years and whose father was a Coke addict, she seemed awfully naive. It didn’t seem realistic to me that she would be so worried about dating a college-aged guy. A lot of girls in high school date boys in college; it’s not that unusual in today’s world. To me, Stella’s innocence, besides seeming unrealistic, made the book not as interesting as it could have been, as I felt like Stella didn’t really change too much throughout the story. I notice that that can happen when you have a narrator essentially telling somebody else’s story.

I also didn’t like Ruby. Despite the fact that she had obviously gone through a trauma at her school in Utah, she was just too petty and rude to really like. I also didn’t appreciate that she put Stella, her supposed new best friend, in such uncomfortable positions. I thought she was fairly naive as well, believing basically everything Kenneth, her much-older boyfriend, told her. I don’t know how many girls would be so trusting of a man, especially an older, creepy man, after going through what Ruby did in Utah.

All in all, this book was a big disappointment and I really wouldn’t recommend it.