Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

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Controversial issues and thought provoking!
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen, Edelweiss and Bookish First for the opportunity to read and review Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry!
Veronica has an awesome father who drives trucks and makes waffles. Sawyer moves into the three story house that Veronica lives in. Veronica and her father live on the third and second floor. Sawyer lives with his little sister Lucy and their mom on the first floor. Supposedly the house is haunted. Veronica gets migraines and ghosts often accompany her headaches. She’s unsure whether the ghosts are truly there or hallucinations. Veronica’s deceased mother often appears and she wants to believe her mom’s ghost is watching over her. Veronica has a benign brain tumor but she does her best to live her life despite the wrenching headaches that disable her. Sawyer is tired of his mom controlling his life and he’s sick of her drinking. The two of them develop a relationship and help each other deal with their struggles.
Several controversial topics are explored in this book, the use of medical marijuana, if ghosts are real or not, choosing or denying treatment for an illness, addiction, enabling addiction and self-care.
4 thought-provoking stars!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

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The Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum blew me away and I am still processing it! Wow, an interesting, twisted story about two teen boys, their acquaintances, family lives and their long-lasting friendship. The relationship between the young men becomes increasingly unhealthy and worries their friends, who try to help them. Things get worse before anything changes and authorities intervene. Food for thought in so many ways, 4 stars!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather

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This book still brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it.  A truly touching story dealing with tough issues!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather. Indy comes from a dysfunctional family except for her loving grandmother who would do anything for her, but she’s not always close enough to help and doesn’t own a phone. Indy has been sexually abused and ended up pregnant and she feels alone, with no one to turn to. She’s living with her Uncle, his wife and her two cousins. Her Uncle cares for her but he’s gone a lot on business. Aunt Patrice treats Indy with disgust. Her cousin Smiley is friendly to Indy but busy being a teenage girl. Her cousin Gary is the one who abuses Indy. This story holds many messages in its pages: you don’t know who you can trust; don’t judge quickly or make assumptions; there are good people in the world; perseverance and resilience are important skills; friends can be found in the most unexpected places and your choices are your own to make. Truly a touching story dealing with some tough issues, 4 stars!

 

Phoebe Will Destroy You by Blake Nelson

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5 stars for the story of the mysterious Phoebe and the lovable Nick!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Phoebe Will Destroy You by Blake Nelson!
Nick visits relatives for the summer, getting a break from his mother and her alcoholism. Nick and his parents live in a college town and his parents both work for the university and since his mother returned from rehab, she seems bored and distant to Nick and her husband. The relatives he visits live in a laid back town and he’s looking forward to seeing them and being in a different environment. Nick meets quite a few new people, makes friends and they have interesting experiences together, but there’s one person that gets into his mind more than anyone else- Phoebe. She’s a complete mystery and that’s a big part of why Nick finds her attractive and appealing. Nick imagines a future with Phoebe but it always involves changing some part of Phoebe’s life to create that future. The ambiguity of the ending left me hoping that Nick is enjoying his present and continues to enjoy his future with or without Phoebe in it. 5 stars for the lovable Nick!

All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan

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Sad, harsh, funny and enlightening all at the same time!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan. After reading the synopsis, I thought the story would be harsh and depressing. It’s both of those with a bit of humor added into the mix. It’s almost a desperation humor and a way for the main character, Ronney to deal with his rough life. He’s fifteen and pretty much like a parent to his younger sister Mina, who’s extremely smart. Their mother holds a job and brings home a paycheck but she’s deeply depressed. Their father flubbed a suicide attempt and only has use of one of his arms. He’s depressed and mostly hangs out in his bedroom. Ronney helps with home repairs and his little sister’s homework. He’s in love with his best friend but she’s dating his other best friend, Jello. Ronney’s life is full of complications and he’s barely dealing. The zoo animals are set loose and Jello wants to safari and do a photo shoot with all of the loose animals he can find. This adds comic relief to the story and also danger. The story is sad, harsh, enlightening and funny all at the same time, 4 stars!

Mean Little People by Paige Dearth

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Heartbreaking realistic fiction.
Thanks to NetGalley, Fiction With Meaning LLC and a Goodreads giveaway for the ARC of Mean Little People by Paige Dearth.
The prologue broke my heart with the bullying of a seven-year-old boy. Tony was severely bullied by children and then he went home after being saved by a passerby and was bullied horribly by his father. The story continues on as Tony grows up, makes friends, loses friends and stands up to his father. The story jumps through Tony’s life and is somewhat choppy for a while but then finally settles and flows better. Once Tony becomes a teenager, the jumping stops and the story continues on with the tragically sad, horrifying and heartbreaking events that he’s living through. Tony sees his friend Salvatore harm someone. Vincent and Salvatore run away but Tony stays to help the injured person. A witness sees Tony by the person and tells the police that Tony was the killer when the person dies. Tony ends up in a juvenile detention center where he’s abused beyond comprehension. The only reason he was arrested is because he wouldn’t tell on Salvatore. Salvatore’s father is the mob boss but he’s cold and uncaring so he doesn’t help Tony as much or as quickly as he should. The mob eventually kills the witness and Tony is released. Now he has nowhere to go because his wretched father refuses to let him stay at home because he’s a “criminal”. He’s homeless. Tony finds a friend in a male drug addict and they share a room in an abandoned apartment building. This is the first time that he feels safe and isn’t harmed by someone he’s trusted. He also meets Donata, who owns a bakery that Tony frequently visits on the rare occasion when he has money. Donata and her granddaughter Ruth become family to Tony. His addict friend freezes to death and Tony is left on the streets alone and terrified of freezing to death too. He ends up joining the Slayers, a violent gang, just so he has a warm place to sleep. Through all of this, Salvatore begs his father to help Tony. The mob boss finally gives Tony a job, freeing him from the Slayers. He always tells Tony that he is indebted to him and the mob family and owes them, even though Salvatore continues to remind his father that he’s really indebted to Tony for saving him from the awful detention center in the first place. This story reminds me of the movie “Scarface”, with the hatred, anger and violence. I admire the author for being brutally honest with the details of the harm and violence that is predominantly portrayed throughout the book. Perseverance is strongly represented also. Tony has amazing strength and because we’re given his view of tragedies that he suffered through, his strength and perseverance become even more hard- earned and amazing because he carries on. The choppy grammar is used to make the characters real and it does work. Heartbreaking realistic fiction that’s also very eye-opening, 4 stars.

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

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A must read for anyone who enjoys suspense!
Thanks to Razorbill and Bookish First for the ARC of Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson!
Gabe and Elyse alternate in telling the story. Gabe is tired of his toxic girlfriend and finally breaks off their relationship, but she vows to make him pay. Elyse surprises herself by landing the part of Juliet in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Gabe is reeling from Sasha’s, his ex-girlfriend’s, actions while Elyse is struggling with her home life. The two main characters both end up feeling defeated and alone. Jennifer Donaldson weaves a mysterious story with pure intensity around interesting characters! I don’t want to give anything away. I will just say this is a must-read for anyone who enjoys suspenseful young adult realistic fiction and it earns a riveting 5 stars from me!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer! Two teens that have each lost someone they love begin an ongoing anonymous conversation by adding to a letter left and then found next to a cemetery headstone. The conversation moves to email for convenience and these two strangers help each other grieve. Declan has lost his sister and his father is in prison and no longer part of their family. His mother has married Alan, who isn’t the nicest to Declan. Juliet has lost her journalist mother in a hit and run car accident and she lives with her father. Declan has an amazing best friend, Rev, that’s dealing with his own traumatic past and Juliet’s best friend, Rowan, is supportive and caring. The email relationship remains anonymous and grows deeper and more meaningful as their grief is dealt with together. Letters to the Lost melted my heart with the complicated storyline and endearing, real characters. I love everything about this story, from the caring, helpful teachers to the awkward friends to the dysfunctional family members. All of these components create a beautiful realistic fiction novel worth 5 stars!

The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato. Teddi’s summer vacation begins with a few options. She decides to spend time with Summerteens, the local library’s summer writing workshop. Before the workshop kicks off, Teddi has had a spooky encounter, a kiss and an argument with her single, downtrodden mother. I fell in love with The Precious Dreadful, Teddi’s personality and boldness and the variety of characters it holds in its pages! The more I read, the deeper the story took me. Teddi has pretty much raised herself since her mother, Brenda, tends to be drunk and partying with her friends instead of being available and sober for her daughter. Brenda is also keeping secrets from Teddi and has tried to, in her own dysfunctional way, protect her role as a mother. As Teddi’s summer rolls on, relationships become more complicated and drama-ridden and her subconscious is forcing her to remember a traumatic and horrible part of her childhood. The Precious Dreadful bends genres: mystery, horror, supernatural, romance and young adult realistic fiction; this book also pulls at your heartstrings through intense tragedy, awareness of bad choices and the bond of friendship and kindness of others and it’s well deserving of 5 stars!