Book Review: Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno

The title Rules Being A Girl enticed me and when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for the recent novel by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno, I was very pleased.

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Feminism

Blurb:

It starts before you can even remember: you learn the rules for being a girl.

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules. 

My thoughts:

I loved this novel right from the moment I read the first page. Rules For Being A Girl is such an important book for emerging women to read..

The story shows us the thought processes a teenage girl could go through when a male teacher makes sexual advances towards her. Marin felt in some way that the sexual advances were her fault and, because of this, she questions all of her actions from the past. It was interesting for me to compare the way Marin responds to her teacher’s advances to the way in which Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa responds to similar advances.

The novel centres on the way in which Marin processes her experience – and what she learns from it. From the responses to her teacher’s actions ( her own and others), Marin learns a lot about herself and about society. The far-reaching implications of the sexual advances are highlighted for both Marin and the teacher.

In the story, Marin learns more about herself and about the solidarity of women in society. She comes to realise that this solidarity can be shown in different ways. Rules For Being A Girl also highlights the need for women to support each other in small ways; and shows that feminism can be expressed in different ways.

Bushnell & Cotugno have written a novel that is a must-read for all teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a novel that will encourage them to think of the type of woman they want to be; as well as how they could respond to patriarchal assumptions and expectations.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 23rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

I was interested to read Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles and was pleased when the team at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of the novel.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right? 

My thoughts:

This is a novel that adolescent boys need to read! It describes the fumblings of a teen boy as he attempts to attract the attention of a girl he likes. With all the advice given to him by various people, he learns to make his own decisions – and to live with the consequences. This novel is a diverse read that focuses on a topic that is an essential one for adolescents: the interactions one has with the opposite sex, and how to treat the people you are attracted to.

Not So Pure and Simple focuses on the growth of Del as he learns how girls want to be treated (not how he thinks they want to be treated); and that the girl he likes may not always like him back. Giles takes the reader to the time when relationships with the opposite sex can be confusing. Exciting, but confusing. The author does this with a sense of humour and sensitivity, acknowledging the confused emotions of the teen boys.

A serious thread also runs through the story as the need for sex education is highlighted. The opposing views of the adults towards the programme is shown as well as how the attitudes of the opposing viewpoint can affect the lives of the teenagers. The programme is not only about the intricacies of sex itself; but also about the need to respect the members of the opposite sex.

Not So Pure and Simple is an important story that needs to be told. Yes, relationships can be a minefield when you are a teen but there a certain lessons to be learned that can make it seem less so. I enjoyed reading Lamar Giles’ story and I am sure that many young people would too.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 3rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Soon The Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson

Soon The Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson is one of the ARCs I picked up at the OLA Super Conference at the beginning of this year. As I was going on vacation, I thought it would be a perfect time to read this novel set in the past. I did not have a chance to read it when relaxing on holiday, but when I flew back home from the Dominican Republic, I carried Dave Patterson’s novel in my bag. At 251 pages, I thought it would be long enough to read on the 4 hour return flight. Even though my husband and I were flying together, we were unlucky enough to be separated on the plane and, because there were no in-flight screens on the plane, the only thing I had to do on the journey was read.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age

Blurb:

A 12-year-old altar boy lives with his family in a small, poverty stricken town in Vermont. His father works at a manufacturing plant, his mother is a homemaker, and his fifteen-year-old brother is about to enter high school. His family has gained enough financial stability to move out of the nearby trailer park, and as conflict rages abroad, his father’s job at a weapons manufacturing plant appears safe. But then his mother is diagnosed with cancer, and everything changes.

As his family clings to the traditions of their hard-lined Catholicism, the narrator begins to see how ideology and human nature are often at odds. He meets Taylor, a perceptive, beguiling girl from the trailer park, a girl who has been forced to grow up too fast. Taylor represents everything his life as an altar boy isn’t, and their fledgling connection develops as his mother’s health deteriorates.

Set over the course of one propulsive summer, Soon the Light Will be Perfect chronicles the journey of a young man on the cusp of adulthood, a town battered by poverty, and a family at a breaking point. In spare, fiercely honest prose, Dave Patterson captures what it feels like to be gloriously, violently alive at a moment of political, social, and familial instability. 

My thoughts:

The novel is a coming-of-age story set in the 60s and the family described is barely getting by financially. As I was reading the story, I could imagine the setting easily as I thought back to the films I had seen on television when I was a teenager. Even though I had not grown up in Vermont during that time period, it did feel familiar to me.

The story focuses on a young boy whose mother is diagnosed with cancer. He sees his mother growing weaker – and not giving up on her tasks and responsibilities. He sees his father lose his job and taking up anything to bring in a paycheck. He sees his older brother showing interest in a girl and spending less time with him. Because of his experiences at home and in the church, he realises that he needs to decide what is important to him and what it is that he wants to do with his time. He is a young boy growing up during the Vietnam war and during a time in America when things were changing.

The book was interesting and held my attention during the flight. It is not a fast-paced read and instead ambles along as a boy’s childhood would. The content did cause flashbacks to a different time when values and social issues were different. The novel is described as a book for young adults. I would state, however, that it is a novel for teens who enjoy a more literary type of novel – Soon The Light Will Be Perfect is not one that will be enjoyed by those looking for adventure stories or even a teen romance. Instead it slowly describes the change in a twelve year old’s life over a summer period.

I did enjoy Patterson’s novel even though it is a story I would not reread. It was well-written with a sensitivity to the time period and a boy’s entrance into adolescence. Well worth a read if you enjoy coming-of-age stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 98th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Break In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Harper Collins Canada held a #FrenzyPresents event earlier this month at which they promoted the Young Adult book written by Brian Francis, Break In Case of Emergency. I had the opportunity to attend and meet the author so I was curious to read the novel the folks at Harper Collins were enthusiastically promoting.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT

Blurb:

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.

My thoughts:

I do admit to beginning this novel with high expectations as it had been avidly promoted. The story also interested me as it dealt with possible mental health issues that so many teens face at this time of their lives. I think it is good that there is literature like this out there to help teen readers realise that they are not alone when experiencing suicidal thoughts or even feelings of worthlessness.

The story is written from the point of view of a teenage girl who does feel worthless; and who comes to believe that the people she is surrounded by would be better off without her. She does have a raw deal: growing up with her grandparents without a dad around, her mom having committed suicide. Francis places us right inside the mind of Toby Goodman, a girl who is having suicidal thoughts. We read of how her mind circles around suicide and why it would be such a good thing for her to do. There were moments, to be honest, when I felt that the thoughts expressed were a bit repetitive and I wished the story would move on – though I can understand that the writer wanted to reflect how a depressed person would focus on the negative and constantly obsess on a point.

Toby Goodman meets her dad who is a well-known drag queen. Not much time is spent on the encounter and subsequent meetings though. At the end of the novel, I wished that more had been written of their interaction. The moment of meeting her dad does help Toby come to certain realisations about herself, and even about her mom. Meeting her dad does put to rest some concerns that Toby had about her mother and her own relationship with her.

Toby is a character that grows in the story. She learns about herself and about what is important to her. She comes to learn more about the people in her lives; and begins to see herself through their eyes. The novel suggests to the reader that in our lives we are part of a group; and that we each have our role within that group. Out role is important and our actions do affect the others around us in a negative or positive way.

Break In Case of Emergency is a novel that celebrates a person who can overcome extreme sadness with the help of those around her. It celebrates that we, as people, can overcome the challenges in our ordinary lives with the love of those in our lives. This contemporary young adult novel will be one of those stories that can help young teens realise that they are not alone; and that they can look to the support of family and friends to help them through difficult times.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 90th in my book pledge for 2019)

First Line Fridays: Break In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Today I begin reading In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis. I am excited to read this novel especially because I met the author on Tuesday. The novel discusses mental health issues and describes a young girl’s coming-of-age story.

“The day I lost my mom, I turned left instead of right. If I had listened to her instructions, if I had turned right, she would still be here.”

Break In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis (2019, Harper Collins Canada)

Already I want to know more – though I will have to wait until I get home this evening before I continue reading!

Would you keep reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books and her One Line Friday challenge.)

Frenzy Presents: Brian Francis

Last night I attended a Frenzy Presents event to launch a new release by Brian Francis. Break In Case of Emergency is his first YA novel which deals with mental health issues and the protagonist’s coming of age. I was excited to meet the author and read the words of a novelist I had not read before.

The evening had another attraction for me: I would see my dear friend who lives quite a distance from me. Normally when school is on, we don’t see one another. However, her children’s sports programmes have not yet started so she was able to meet me at the event.

I was enjoying her company so much that I forgot to take pictures! The snacks offered were yummy and the author was so nice to chat to. As the event was held at a restaurant, he came to each table and chatted with us for a while. So pleasant. My only regret was that he could not chat with us for longer! (And that I forgot to take a photo with him!)

Last night was a night to smile. I met an author, chatted with him, received a lovely novel to read, and spent time with my dear friend.

What has made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Book Review: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

While at the OLA Super Conference, I had a chance to meet the authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. Both Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite were enthusiastic about the novel they had written together and as I opened the first page of the story, I remembered their enthusiasm.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

My thoughts:

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is told through a series of letters, texts, journal entries and emails. The various ways in which the story is told suits the age group of the main character and makes her more accessible to the reader. It also gave me the feeling, as I was reading the novel, that I was ‘in the moment’, learning information at the same time as Alaine.

What I found interesting while reading this story were the titbits I received of Haitian culture. Not knowing much about these island people, I was interested in learning more. Having said that, the references to Haitian culture are subtle and discreetly woven into the story.

I am not too sure about a school agreeing to have a student complete her semester volunteering at an organisation in another country for school credit. The idea, though, is an interesting one – and one that could be beneficial to learning. And Alaine does learn – she learns about her own culture (which children of immigrants often lose), as well as a little bit about herself and her family members. She begins to see her parents through the eyes of the adult she is becoming; and gets to spend some important time with her jet setting mom who is suffering from an illness.

I enjoyed the story as a relaxing and light read. I did not find the novel to be a deep one – though it is a fun read. I look forward to seeing what story the two sister writers will write next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 83rd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller

At the Spring Frenzy Presents event that I attended, I received a copy of Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller. I was curious to read the story told in two points of view. In addition, mental health in teens is an issue that should no longer be taboo and I was pleased to see that a teen novel was exploring the subject.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

A crucial, genre-bending tale, equal parts Ned Vizzini and Patrick Ness, about the life-saving power of friendship.

Solomon and Ash both experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve.

Ash lost all memory of that event when she fell from Solomon’s treehouse. Since then, Solomon has retreated further and further into a world he seems to have created in his own mind. One that insulates him from reality, but crawls with foes and monsters . . . in both animal and human form.

As Solomon slips further into the place he calls Darkside, Ash realizes her only chance to free her best friend from his pain is to recall exactly what happened that day in his backyard and face the truth—together.

My thoughts:

I liked the concept behind the story: that a childhood trauma affects a child’s perception on life. Solomon experiences such trauma and loses himself in a fantasy world of his own making. There were moments, however, when I read of his experience in this fantasy world that I was a bit lost in the story. Miller attempts to create a fantasy world but for me, as an avid fantasy reader, it fell a little flat. In addition, at times the link between Solomon’s fantasy world and the reality was too tenuous. Having said that, midway through the story, the connections between the two seemed more believable.

Ash’s storyline was more interesting to me as she strove to help her friend, and to remember the night that she had blanked out in her mind. Like her friend Solomon, she had found a way to erase the event out of her mind – but in different manner. While searching to help her friend Solomon, she finds a way to help her own mind heal.

What kept me reading the story was my curiosity of the trauma – which is indeed something that would cause a mental breakdown in a child. The suggestion of the trauma is revealed in increments until finally Solomon is able to reveal what happened the night Ash lost her memory. Miller resolves the story with finesse and realism – an ending that I certainly appreciate.

Destroy All Monsters is a much needed story about mental health issues. It is a story about friendship – a friendship that survives even a childhood trauma. Miller tells the story through two points of view – both Solomon and Ash – and at times I was unable to make the connection between Solomon’s created world and the reality that Ash described.

Even though I expected much when I began this story, Miller’s novel did fall a little flat for me as he tried too hard to create a fantasy world. What kept me reading was Ash’s story and my desire to know more about the trauma that they had experienced.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 77th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazeman

At the Spring Frenzy Presents event that I attended, I received a copy of Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazeman. The description of the novel sounded interesting and I looked forward to going back to the time of my adolescence.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

My thoughts:

Like A Love Story flashes back to the AIDS activism of the eighties and when many news items in the media were on the AIDS crisis. The novel takes us back to a time that many have forgotten: a time of fear and of uncertain knowledge; a time when people fought for the rights of those that had been struck with the disease. So many procedures and access to medication is a result of the people who boldly protested for the right (not privilege) to receive treatment.

I enjoyed the flashbacks to the music of Madonna and my love of her songs when I was a teen. As I was reading the references to the rebellious singer, the songs would play in my mind. While reading this novel, I learned how important she was in the gay community – something I had not realised before when living as a teenager in Apartheid South Africa.

Nazeman has written a beautiful story that embraces what a person is born to be. It is a story about a young man who comes to accept who he is despite the fear that surrounds him. It is a story about fighting for what you believe is right, no matter what is being reported in the media or how people treat you. It is a story that describes the fear of being different to expectations. It is a story about the courage to be yourself. It is a story about friendship and of love; and of supporting the people that you love.

Like A Love Story is one that has touched my heart. It is a read that takes you back to the past and encourages you to connect with characters that will remain with you long after you have completed the book. Be warned, though. You will feel emotional when reading this story – have a kleenex on hand!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 76th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

At the Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins in Spring, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura. My daughters are excited to read this one and will grab it from my hands as soon as I have reviewed it! 😀

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

My thoughts:

I love seeing the diverse reads that young people have the opportunity to read today – the type of reads that I did not have growing up. This Time Will Be Different is one such read. The story describes the experience of a girl of Japanese descent who is being raised by a single mom. Her experience as a minority in her school is also referred to.

Even though she is a minority, CJ’s experience as such is not focused on in the story. Instead, the writer shares with us the character’s personal growth as she determines what it is that is important to her; and how she will go about fighting for what it is she wants. CJ also learns about the importance of family and friends – lessons that teens of diverse cultures need to learn.

Sugiura shares with us a story that describes the progression of a seventeen year old finding her own voice; and learning about the voice of her family members. This Time Will Be Different is also a tale of romance and of family relationships. The novel is an enjoyable and light read with a message that will touch the heart of its readers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 73rd in my book pledge for 2019)