After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga

Hello Reader,

For anyone who follows my GoodReads account, you may already know I had a chance to read After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco. After The Red Rain is scheduled for an early August release, and loving both post-apocalypse and Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers trilogy, I thought to give this e-ARC a try. I received my copy from NetGalley, which is a great website to receive e-ARCs from. My thoughts about this title are somewhat mixed, but definitely positive overall. I do believe this is a title worth purchasing for the teen collection for teen librarians or purchasers, and worth at least checking out from a library if you are a reader.

Now for the review, there are some slight spoilers ahead for what the setting is like and what the characters are like, but that will be all.

18588738

After The Red Rain takes place at least a few hundred years after the world was ended by… something. The regular people that inhabit the world now, such as Deedra, don’t know exactly what happened to the world. All they know is that they are living in an assumedly better world. They live in a world that is run by essentially dictators and are expected to be good citizens and cooperate with their government. The air quality sometimes suffers from poor quality or low oxygen, so often times people must wear masks in order to breathe. Some people, like Deedra, go scavenging and take guesses as to the uses of past relics, such as tiny, circular mirrors that have a hole in the center for your finger to hold up. That scene is definitely reminiscent of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and I enjoyed reading these aspects of the book.

The people live off of food created in labs, which are synthesized from stem cells and the genetic map of past creatures. As such, the food doesn’t taste that great. Clearly, the food exists simply to keep the people alive. All in all, the world built is fairly realistic, and I do think the color scheme for most of the book is in different shades of gray. While I take some issue with trees, plants, and animals seeming to be rare, it is possible that the description of how the flora and fauna did or did not survive is incomplete or not well described. Overall, I do think the world the authors created is interesting and contains stories I am interested in reading in.

Deedra, our first protagonist, starts off well enough. She is adventurous, but not stupid. She is curious, but has some short comings related to that such as being uninterested in the “why” of how the world is now. Deedra has a friend named Lizzy, who is hilarious. Together, they make a fun duo and they way they carry on lightheartedly in an otherwise dark setting greatly increases the uniqueness of the story. Deedra seems to have her own characteristics and destiny, but that changes over time as we are introduced to Rose, our second protagonist.

Rose, a young man with an unusual name, comes from seemingly nowhere. He is a weary traveler, who has seen some of the worst humanity has to offer. Yet, Rose is a kind person. Rose is feminine in appearance, and seems to be accepting of his appearance. Rose is definitely an interesting character that compliments Deedra. I take only two major issues with Rose as a character. The first is that Rose and Deedra go from having an interesting relationship to Deedra obsessing over Rose and his safety to the point she nearly gets herself killed a couple of times. The obsession is off putting and undermines her own personality as depicted previously. The second issue is one that I will describe later on, but in short is a sudden action Rose takes which seems to go against everything we learn about him as we read.

The conflict of the story revolves around the murder of a somewhat minor, somewhat major character in the book. Deedra finds herself accused, then worried Rose may have been the culprit. As this is hard to describe without spoiling it, I won’t go too far into it. I do believe that when the investigation begins on Deedra the story doesn’t seem to use its setting to its advantage.

While the world is, in my opinion, really amazing and the opening to the title fantastic as Deedra and her friend explore the wastes for salvage, the novel switches from a cool, post-apocalypse to a dystopian YA fic. My bias here is that we’ve seen these dystopian themes before and already examined the bleakness of a situation in which the government is basically evil and corrupt. The novel here simply reads as OKAY. Not great or amazing, just “Okay, so that is what is happening now.”

Finally, the ending. I can’t even describe it, because I do believe people will have fun reading this even if I didn’t. I do think there is potential here. This novel won’t be released for several months, so who knows what might change. Suffice to say, the novel ends in a way where there will definitely be a sequel. Almost none of the secrets of this world have been revealed. Rose does something totally out of character for him, which really countered my feelings of “Wow, he is a unique male character. He is good, kind, and always values life. He isn’t just that male protagonist that hits people, is dark/brooding because reasons, and is the typical vision of the male power fantasy.” I will leave that at that.

Overall, it seems like I wouldn’t recommend this title, but I think everyone should give this novel a try. While it has its shortcomings, I honestly think the authors are on to something that could become great, fun, and continue to break stereotypes and tropes found in YA fiction. I know I will be reading After The Red Rain again when it is released in its final version. I recommend this to any YA reader that loves: post-apocalypse, dystopian, romance, and are looking for something at least a little different.

Look forward to After The Red Rain‘s release in August 4th, 2015.

 

Advertisements

Monsters Among Us, YA book suggestions for people that love vampires, werewolves, and ghosts

Hello Reader,

As I have ranted a few times, I am a graduate student earning my master degree in Library Wizardry. I am currently in two classes which allow me to read YA books for homework. This is half yay and half “why are you making me read this god awful book!”, but recently I had an assignment to do a book talk with teens and make recommendations based on a theme.

Obviously, I decided to have my theme include werewolves. I love werewolves, and let’s be honest… I think most people like paranormal and supernatural creatures. They can either follow the Rule Of Cool, be allegories for our own vices, or maybe make us fall in love with them. Yeah, I just linked three TvTropes in a row, I will see you back here in a couple days!

It was suggested to me by Eden over at Blogging Between the Lines to share the brochure I made with other teen librarians. The topic of my brochure and presentation is “Monsters Among Us,” which is primarily supernatural, paranormal, and/or urban fantasy. Of course, there are other genres dipped in, such as humor, but the thing that binds these titles together are the non-human entities that exist within their chapters.

I hope you enjoy! Maybe you will find something great to read in my brochure. Feel free to use it for your own purposes, but please credit me if you are doing anything professional with it!

Link to brochure.

Preview

Preview

Monsters Among Us

Preview

 

D reads two Female Assassin books (Spoiler Alert: I love one and sort of hate the other)

tumblr_m67nonFFgb1rnc9cbo1_1280

Nightingale Armor aka the most BAMF armor in Skyrim. Word.

Hello readers,

I’ve been taking my sweet, beautiful time getting through two particular books: “Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers and “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas. There are light spoilers ahead, but I promise I won’t reveal too much info. These are both books that have some core similarities:

  • Young, beautiful, female protagonists
  • Assassin main characters
  • Awesome supporting characters
  • Villains you love to hate
  • The presence of supernatural/magical elements
  • Ye olde world

That is about where the similarities end and the differences begin. For one, while they both have a “ye olde backdrop” type setting, Maas’ work takes place is a fictional, (low?) fantasy world. LaFever’s book is historical fiction which takes place in Brittany during the time when their independence was threatened by the French. The prose and dialogue differ extremely, as LaFever’s world is cohesive and makes sense. People speak in polite terms, even when they are making vague threats, whereas Maas’ world seems to have a hard time establishing anything outside of the central romance.

I think its a bit obvious which book I prefer by now… I really love Grave Mercy! So first, let’s talk about why Throne of Glass just didn’t do it for me.

Throne_of_Glass_UK

In summation, Throne Of Glass is like a mix of Battle Royale-ish (minus the horror/wtf stuff) with romance elements and a dash of intrigue. The main character, Celaena Sardothien, is an 18 year old accomplished assassin. When we meet her, it is actually during the end of her imprisonment in a salt mine as harsh punishment for her crimes against the crown. The world as we know it is currently under siege by King of Adarlan as he, for whatever reason, decided he hates magic and also he wants to rule everything and stomp out magic. Celaena is taken from her confinement by Prince Dorian and his friend/captain of the guard, Chaol Westfall. She is offered a chance to enter a tournament to become the King’s champion (read: dog) or return to the salt mines where she will work until she dies. Obviously, she chooses to enter the tourney and the plot ensues. Kind of.

There are about three things I have a problem with in this book. First, I think the main character does a lot of talking, but her actions don’t match her words. Second, the entirety of the book takes place in basically Celaena’s room and a couple other places in the castle. We learn almost nothing about other places, really, other than Celaena’s ‘descriptions’ of the places. Third, the romance is forced, out of place, and overall seems rushed. Also its apparently a love triangle, but one of the participants wasn’t really informed of that.

Celaena is one of those people that likes to talk about how she is a big baddie, but does nothing to show for it. We don’t even really hear of her past exploits ever. We mostly just hear, primarily from Celaena’s own mouth, that she is world famous, world class, and super amazing and bad ass. Yet, in this novel, she just lies around reading, complaining about how someone (usually a man) isn’t noticing her, and flirting with the crown prince. While she does have a couple scenes where she trains with Chaol, her other romantic interestish, these are few despite that the main plot should be about the tournament and the mysterious murders. Also the murders aren’t very mysterious, but you will understand if you decide to read this.

The world in Throne of Glass seems like it should be full of life, but we are stuck with very few characters to truly express the stated vastness of culture, color, and people that populate this universe. There is even a character, whom we see the POV of, who is basically pointless and contributes almost nothing to the plot or narrative as a whole. While Princess Nehemia is a POC, she is basically one of the only people we meet from a different culture outside of Cain, who I refuse to comment on. Still, Princess Nehemia is an amazing, awesome, and inspiring character. I rather wish this story was told from her POV instead, since she has her priorities in line… instead of worrying about if the prince thinks she’s pretty or not.

Interested to not interested in 3 seconds! A new record!

Which reminds me, the ‘romance’ in this book is comparable to a little girl lifting her Barbies together and shouting “NOW KISS!” The author somehow conveyed really weird signals and feelings that completely clashed, in my opinion, with how Celaena should have thought of the situation. First, this is the son of a king who destroyed everything you loved. Even for love at first sight, you would think an assassin understands to play a game rather than outright trust everything such a person has to say. Their flirtations are the kind you see between people who know it will never happen and come off really awkward. I feel like slapping these people and lecturing them. I feel like much of the time that could have been spent developing the world is stuck documenting the boring courtship between Celaena and Dorian.

Now here is the part where it sounds like I am going to ship against the current, but the relationship between Celaena and Chaol comes off as very natural. They don’t even ‘realize’ their feelings for one another through most of the book. Chaol eyes Celaena with distrust and it isn’t until certain moments when he realizes he at least cares for her as a human being. He has seen her at her worst and seems to genuinely want her to succeed not for any kind of personal gain, but because he understands that Celaena is not just a criminal, but a person. All of this just makes the really needless, useless, and out of left field stuff between Celaena and Dorian more unbearable.

So here is why Grave Mercy was basically the opposite of all that.

9565548

Truth be told, I thought Grave Mercy would be the weaker of the two works. JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER. I tend to judge books by their covers, like a terrible person. Its just hard to think a cover with a wispy, beautiful girl holding a crossbow will really deliver.

But oh god, does it deliver the best pizza you ever ate.

When I really sat down and devoured this book, I realized how delicious it was.

When I really sat down and devoured this book, I realized how delicious it was.

First, let’s talk about this main character, Ismae. She is a child of death, Mortain’s daughter — literally. When she was in the womb, her mother and father(ish) tried to abort her with the help of an herb witch. It didn’t work and left a huge scar along her body.  She was sired by death, and her childhood was spent as a leper of sorts for it. People, understandably I suppose, were afraid of her including her mother’s husband. One day, he sells her off to be the bride of some brutish man, but she is rescued by the herb witch that gave her mother the abortive poison. She spends the rest of her adolescence in the convent as a sister initiate. Basically, they trained her to become an assassin doing her god’s will. This all happens in the first couple chapters… a relief for those who understand the painful, slow pace most novels seem to take. The rest of the story follows, somewhat, the story of Anne of Brittany. Reading about what happens with her is kind of a spoiler for the book but at the same time Anne of Brittany was quite awesome.

 

Anne of Brittany. Original "IT" girl.

Anne of Brittany. Original “it” girl.

The world is based on our’s. As a historical fiction, it uses its background quite nicely and it is great to see the central plot be about Anne and the game people play to try to take her duchy away from her. While the main character has some supernatural features to her, everything fits nicely into place and makes sense. For these reasons, the world is rich with history, full of life, and there is a real sense of danger as we read the story… because anyone who knows the history of Anne of Brittany already has an idea of how things will go.

The romance in this book is simply beautiful. The subtly, the pacing, the realness of it — it seriously blows my mind. Ismae does not spend all her time worrying about if he loves her, but moreso focuses on her mission for a majority of the story. Her mission is to protect the Duchess Anne and to learn more about Duval, her love interest. The best part about this book is that he is not simply her love interest. He is an independent character with motivations, a history, and we can empathize with Ismae as she slowly falls for Duval when she learns more about him.

Truly, this book has a lot more to it than what I can write here. I don’t dare say more, because it would be mostly spoilers. I think this is a book that most people would like to read, especially those itching to read about strong, female protagonists. While she does have a romance with Duval, it is not the only plot running. We worry about Anne, about Duval, we wonder about the mysterious god Mortain, and we learn more about Ismae as she becomes a strong person.

In the end, Throne of Glass is a first novel by Maas and it certainly shows. Grave Mercy is LaFever’s first YA novel, but she has many children’s titles under her belt. Throne of Glass was simply not for me, but I think people looking for pure romance with a medieval/fantasy backdrop will find what they are looking for. If you want more complex characters and narrative, however, you should definitely give Grave Mercy a try.

D

D reads and reads and reads…

Hello readers,

I’ve been super mean and not updating this blog like I should. I keep wanting to post something, but then GRADUATE SCHOOL. Graduate school is every bit as hard as you’ve heard, but not because the material is difficult. Graduate school is hard because it takes up a lot of time. You need to read EVERYTHING, do all the homework, and then spend a ton of time working on projects or papers. Its exhausting… and I am in the first year doing it part-time.

my soul is broken

my soul is broken

For these past few weeks, I’ve been in a “SCREW IT” mode however. I decided, “You know what? I am gonna read what I wanna read. Yeah! You can’t tell me what to do!!!” So, I read a lot of graphic novels and a few YA titles. Here is my line up of favorites, my not-so-favorites, my thoughts, and other comments.

Fables Fables by Bill Willingham

Fables is an amazing series written by Bill Willingham with various attached artists. This is a story about fables, fairy tales, and other tall tales that have escaped from their world into our own. Their home world was sieged by a character called the Adversary, a mysterious figure that managed to unite goblins and other creatures in conquest.

The story starts off in Fabletown, New York, a small neighborhood community inhabited by the Fables. Bigby Wolf (aka the Big Bad Wolf) is the sheriff, and the first volume or so plays out like a detective series. I really enjoyed the noir-type aspects of this part. The series branches out beyond a fairy tale noir setting, but is still immensely enjoyable. I am currently on volume 7 of the series. Look forward to learning more about Bigby, Snow White, and the Adversary.

18052934No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

     No One Else Can Have You is Kathleen Hale’s first YA novel, and I really hope that it isn’t her last. NOECHY is about a small town with murder, secrets, and crazy people. The main character might be one of those crazy people too. Kippy Bushman, our heroine, finds herself investigating the gruesome death of her best friend Ruth Friedman. If you liked Twin Peaks this book will cause you to think back to that awesome show. While Kippy is no Dale Cooper, Ruth is eerily similar to Laura Palmer. There is also no supernatural elements to this plot, but it does involve extremely colorful townspeople that are quirky in an unsettling kind of way.                                                            I can’t really talk too much more about the book without spoiling it, but let it be known that this book gets my solid recommendation! GO READ IT, FOOLS!!!

Flash_0012

The Flash (The New 52) by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

So the Flash is my boyfriend’s most favoritist character in the whole, wide world. Hearing that the New 52 is supposed to be an okay starting point for new readers, I decided to learn more about the Flash in this new series, which by the way has major backing behind it in terms of awesome reviews and recommendations. Well, I, as a total noob, had no idea what was going on half of the time.

While I really liked the art and some of what is revealed about Barry Allen, who is the original Flash and stars as the Flash in this series, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the random happenings around the Flash. Every arc would introduce villains, some of whom I had no idea who they were, and otherwise the plot felt really dissonant… I’ve only read the first two volumes, but I feel like this is probably not the best starting point for the uninitiated.

Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis13112869

Not A Drop To Drink  is a moving post-apocalyptic novel about the hardships of survival. This is refreshing to me since it doesn’t involve zombies at all! (D’s Note: I love zombies, but sometimes it feels good to read a non-zombie post-apoc book!) This is Mindy McGinnis’ first YA novel, and there is a sequel to this work on the way. I really look forward to it!

This is a book that I believe should cross gender boundaries. While the main character is a teenage girl, this is a hard and gritty novel. The author clearly did her research as some of the survival tips in this novel echoed that of what I heard in school about desert survival. Those that liked Z for Zachariah will enjoy this title, but I would advise those that like this genre to give this novel a try.

 

Blood Lad by Yuuki KodamaKodama_BLoodLad_V1_TP

Meet Staz, he is a vampire gang leader in the demon world. He’s kind of odd though, since he is a total nerd and otaku. Despite that, he is a fierce fighter and has protected his turf well so far. Meet Fuyumi, a human girl that somehow ended up in the demon world and ended up getting eaten up by a monstrous plant before Staz got a chance to drink her blood. Staz, along with Fuyumi’s ghost, searches for a way to revive this dead girl. He seems to have conflicting reasons for wanting to revive her, but his journey ends up unraveling various mysteries and secret plots in the demon world.

This is seriously a fun manga and I actually enjoy it a lot. When I heard this was about a vampire, I scoffed at first. When I ordered this for my library since it seemed pretty popular, it managed to wow me! Definitely worth checking out.

The Croak series by Gina Damico rogue

CroakScorch, and Rogue are the members of the Croak series in that order. These follow the tale of Lex, a grim reaper with a mysterious power. In the first novel, Croak,  it turns out a grim may be murdering innocent people — a big no-no in the grimsphere. In Scorch, we … well, its hard to say without spoiling it. Same goes for Rogue. The first novel is somewhat like a paranormal detective genre, but that changes immediately in the following two novels.

Scorch is somewhat disappointing as a follow-up, as it feels like a lot of running around for few reasons. One character even does a face-heel turn out of literally nowhere… suddenly they act really mean, then are just a bad guy. Meh. Rogue is a step-up from Scorch, but is still not quite as good as Croak. This is still worth giving a read, though your mileage may vary.

Batman (The New 52) by Scott Snyderdownload

This is about Batman, finally a character I already know about albeit from the animated series. In this comic, Batman learns that there may be a secret society that quietly rules Gotham from behind the scenes. They are known as the Court of Owls, and they might be planning something nefarious as our caped crusader begins to unravel their past.

I’ve only read the first volume, but I am completely hooked. The story flowed well, and the art was amazing. There is even an amazing way the art works in a certain part of the novel that is pretty jarring. I simply have to get my hands on the rest in this series, and I will most definitely be ordering this for my library. Its simply too good to pass up!

Of the things I read, these are the titles that stick out the most in my mind. The Flash is one that I hope gets better as I will continue to borrow my boyfriend’s copies. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying it much either, but I think he is holding out hope that the story becomes less… all over the place? The Flash television series should be starting up this year, so that might be my ticket to better understanding the Flash. I have had some experience with him, the Wally West version, in a Justice League cartoon. Otherwise, I am totally out of the loop on this hero. If anyone has recommendations for a better starting point, please let me know!

D

D listens to “Eleanor & Park” (Spoiler Alert: John Green loves this book!)

Image

Hello readers,

About a month or so ago, I finished listening to Eleanor & Park, which is a YA novel with a whirlwind of emotions. The novel is written by Rainbow Rowell, and she has a witty writing style that makes me laugh out loud… and sometimes tear up. This YA novel is a rare treat as it is a contemporary romance that any age group or gender can read without rolling their eyes.

Sure, Bella, you are totally ugly despite all these boys chasing your tail.

Sure, Bella, you are totally ugly despite all these boys chasing your tail.

As some may have guessed from previous entries, I find most YA books to have unnecessary romance or some characters that are so unlikable I put the book down. Here, in Eleanor & Park, there is a rhyme and reason to everything. I can understand why a lot of characters feel the way they do, and why they act in both amazing and terrible ways. Eleanor has been burned a lot before, by her own family, so she finds it hard to trust. For that reason, she will often do things that causes readers to pull out their hair! Eleanor hides things from Park, simply because she doesn’t trust him to not leave her. Similarly, Park can be completely clueless on how to deal with certain situations. For the first portion of the book, he doesn’t let anyone aside from Eleanor know how he feels about her. They try really hard to hide their feelings in public, despite how close they really are. In most books this would push me away, but Rowell’s writing keeps me involved with their hurdles and conflict because they seem like real people. The stupid things they do make sense!

Image

I listened to the audiobook for this novel, and it is fantastic! I couldn’t wait to drive to work or do errands, because it gave me time to listen to the actors. There were two readers total, one for Eleanor and the other for Park. They both nailed their roles and did great impersonations of the other characters in the novel. For me, they helped sell the validity of the teen angst between Eleanor and Park.

I don’t want to spoil too much more of this book, but it is definitely worth checking out at your local library! I love this book to death, and it is really one of the few YA romance novels that is both believable and lovable!

D listens to “impulse” (Spoiler Alert: This book has trigger words, proceed with caution!)

impulsebooktitle

Hello readers,

I finished listening to impulse, a teen book, a few weeks ago. I have a short review up on Goodreads.com, but I decided to gather my thoughts before I really committed anything to my blog. Before I go into any details about impulse, I want to first warn my readers and any potential readers of this book that impulse consists of many trigger words for PTSD-type situations. There is rape, drug use, suicide, and other topics covered in this book. While I wouldn’t have an issue recommending this book to teens, this is a read that I wouldn’t suggest for any person that suffers from PTSD or similar psychological issues. There were a few moments in this book that made me cringe and flashback to some pretty crazy moments in my life, so don’t say I didn’t give you a fair warning! I will put my general impressions first, then I will move into spoiler country.

What’s Written on the Inside Flap

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.

And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.

In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun — and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other’s help, they can find their way to a better life — but only if they’re strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

impulse is crafted from the points of view of these three young adults. Each of them face their own demons while staying in Aspen Springs. In the book, the prose is written to resemble freestyle poetry. While aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and easy to read, it causes some readers confusion.

Each character is written in mostly the same voice and the author switches between the three characters without giving any obvious indication that she has switched. One moment you are reading Conner’s thoughts and he might seem like he is talking about how his childhood sucked due to drugs — woah, Conner never did drugs! While its obvious in that example that the subject is Tony, in the book the reader may have to go back a few pages to see where the transition happened.

The book can be poetic.

The book can be poetic. Sometimes.

Luckily for me, I listened to the audiobook for most of the story. The audiobook has three different actors voicing each role, and 2/3 of them are very great in their roles. The voice which bothered me the most, due to sounding like her mouth was full of spit, was Vanessa. This is not really a slight against the actor who portrayed Vanessa, but rather a vocal pet peeve of mine. I also thought her impressions of the other characters was way off, but it was hard to tell if she was supposed to be acting as them or simply acting like Vanessa trying to imitate other people. Out of the three, Conner’s actor was by far the best. His portrayal was the most subtle and he even made the female lines he spoke engaging rather than offensive.

The book, overall, was alright. Its nothing to write home to mom about, but it is definitely worth a read. Just don’t pick it up while sad! Its no bueno for a blue day.

Spoilers start here!

As most readers can guess, impulse does have a love triangle of sorts, though the triangle in impulse is very strange and off putting. Tony is gay… or is he? Conner is attracted to Vanessa and vice verse, but Vanessa ends up with Tony instead. This shift occurs almost in mid sentence. I had to listen to a previous track just to catch why Vanessa was suddenly canoodling with Tony instead. What’s worse is that she hooks up with Tony after she and Conner share a lusty moment. I thought that I had missed an entire disc, but no, it was just a very sudden occurrence.

A tiny nitpick of mine in terms of Tony’s character is how he goes from gay > bi > straight. It isn’t necessarily that I am against someone adapting to their sexuality. I have no doubts that some teens think they are gay when they really aren’t. I just contest with the idea that Tony’s gay lifestyle led him to where he ended up today. He mentions in the book that his ‘lifestyle’ choice has hurt him and others in his life. On that same note, Tony did have a gay surrogate dad, but I am still not impressed with how quickly Tony shifted from gay > straight and that the novel offers no real insight on the reasons a gay teen might want to off himself in the modern world.

Another nitpick of mine is that these characters only seem to care about each other and themselves; meanwhile, they are constantly calling the other Aspen Springs patients lame things such as “freaks.” At first, it just seemed as a mechanism for the teens to cope with their situation until they were suddenly attracted to one another. On top of that, Vanessa is very much a Mary Sue of sorts. She’s beautiful, she’s artistic, and she’s got a tragic past! While I could see the ugliness in her soul, it seems somewhat clear to me that I am not supposed to view her in such a negative light. The character is hard to like and the hardened part of me wants to shout “tough shit” at all her excuses for being the way she is outside of the acceptable ones, such as being bipolar.

I’ve actually lived in a hard situation and suffered from crippling depression/suicidal tendencies, so perhaps its simply that I am not actually the target audience for this book. The characters don’t really show signs of strength and instead come off as one-note characters other than Conner. Conner was written in a way where the reader can actually sense things getting worse for him. I think if Conner had been the sole voice of the story… I would have liked it a lot better.