Title: THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Release date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Chloe Mitchell appears to be the it girl: the one with a cute boyfriend, popular friends, and a wide open future. But Chloe’s life isn’t exactly what it seems. Her older sister, Ivy, has autism, and Chloe worries that she’s Ivy’s only friend. If Chloe goes away for college, who else is going to remind Ivy to brush her hair each morning or to be polite when someone talks to her? Chloe wonders if life might be easier if Ivy had someone else in her life: a boyfriend, maybe?
Ethan, a sweet autistic guy in Ivy’s class, seems perfect for Ivy. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy. Chloe and David orchestrate a series of dates between Ivy and Ethan, and to Chloe’s surprise, she has way more fun as part of this unlikely foursome than she does with her popular friends at school. When Chloe’s matchmaking plan goes awry, she’s forced to look inward and realize that an easy life isn’t necessarily what she wants after all.
Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy has been pre-ordered for my collection.
THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN is a sweet, funny, happy-making read that offers up a touch of romance, but is much more a story about siblings, and love, and family, and all of their inherent challenges. With a quick pace, a heartwarming narrative, and immensely likable characters, it’s a story that can – and will – easily be read in one sitting.
Chloe Mitchell doesn’t want to resent her perfect boyfriend with his perfect family and his perfect life. She doesn’t want to be envious of her friends whose only worries seem to be about what parties to go to, what tests to study for, or what colleges to attend. And she doesn’t. Not completely. She just wishes her life wasn’t as complicated and messy as it is.
Pretending to be the perfect girlfriend is wearing thin. Try as she might, she can’t keep up the facade that all is good, that she’s got everything under control, and that nothing bothers her – not even the ignorant comments people make about her sister Ivy.
But she doesn’t want to end up a social pariah like David. She just can’t figure out how to keep up appearances while worrying about what’s going to happen with Ivy. She can’t turn to her mom for help. Or her mom’s new husband, Ron. But if she could find someone else for Ivy to spend time with, to trust, to like, and someday, hopefully, to love, then maybe she wouldn’t have to be so stressed all the time.
Claire LaZebnik penned a heartfelt, delightful, and moving story that conveys just how strong the sibling bond can be and how important it is to have someone in your life who understands what you’re going through and who will be there for you when you need them. She introduces characters who are real and sympathetic and relatable. And she puts them in situations that are difficult, stressful, awkward and uncomfortable, emotional, and at times humorous.
Through her characters, she lets readers experience what it’s like to love someone with autism – the joy, the fear, the challenges, the sorrow, the hope. And with her words she will make readers smile, laugh, tear up, and fall in love with THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.
“This story about a girl who upends her own life by trying to help someone else is a winning read for young people ready for a realistic romance about life’s challenges… Chloe and her sister are so authentically portrayed, they nearly leap off the page… This story about a girl who upends her own life by trying to help someone else is a winning read for young people ready for a realistic romance about life’s challenges.” —School Library Journal
“A charmingly honest, insightful story about love, family, and frozen yogurt. So good you’ll finish it in one sitting!” —Robyn Schneider, author of The Beginning of Everything and Extraordinary Means
“Things I Should Have Known is funny, compassionate, and loving. LaZebnik writes with authority and ease, capturing the complexities of sibling bonds and first love, and crafting characters to root for from start to finish.” —Emma Mills, author of First & Then
“At once romantic and touching, perceptive and honest, Things I Should Have Known is about first love, the bonds of sisterhood, and living your most authentic life. I couldn’t put it down.” —Julie Buxbaum, author of Tell Me Three Things
“A fiercely honest and surprising story about family, first love, and the beauty of individuality. LaZebnik reminds us that sometimes the most wonderful things in life are the things you never expected.” —Ashley Blake, author of Suffer Love
CLAIRE LAZEBNIK has written many adult and YA novels, has coauthored two books on autism, and has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She lives with her TV writer husband and four children, one of whom has autism. She resides in Los Angeles, California.
Title: 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE
Author: Carrie Mac
Release date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
Read an EXCERPT
Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey and Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, this is the poignant and uplifting story of Maeve, who is dealing with anxiety while falling in love with a girl who is not afraid of anything.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.
Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.
Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?
Note: This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.
10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE is a moving, sweet, heartwarming, funny and somewhat anxious-making read. It introduces a girl whose anxiety disorder has majorly impacted her life, who is trying to cope with some pretty serious stuff, and puts her in a sink or swim situation. It allows readers to experience her apprehension, her tension, her fear. And asks them to sympathize with her even when it’s not so easy to do so.
Maeve can’t stop worrying about every little thing. When she gets anxious – which is practically all the time – she can’t stop her brain from going to dark places, from reciting depressing statistics, from imagining the worst possible outcomes.
At home, with her mother, she’s been trying to gain some control over her disorder. But with her mom leaving for Haiti she’s forced to make some big, unsettling changes – say goodbye to Port Townsend, move in with her less than reliable dad, start a new school, make new friends. All these things are hard enough for anyone to deal with, but for someone whose fears dominate their thoughts, it’s almost impossible.
Add in a tragedy, a huge disappointment, a new romance, and an early arrival, and you have the all the ingredients for an epic disaster.
Author Carrie Mac didn’t take the easy road when creating her character. She gave readers someone very real, who is not always particularly likable. And while Maeve may be relatable to some, her disorder could make it difficult for others to understand and connect with her.
The author also didn’t let her character take the easy road. Maeve has all kinds of challenges thrown at her – ones that should give her some hope if she can manage to face and overcome them.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as Maeve might want you to believe. 10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE offers up a lovely romance, two charming siblings, a few interesting neighbors, a kingdom of warring gnomes, and possibly more than you’d ever want to know about home births and parents’ significant others. It is an engaging and insightful, at times maddening, at times hilariously cringe-worthy read.
Award-winning author Carrie Mac is well-known for her adeptness at captivating young adult audiences; she has written ten books for young adults, and won the 2010 Sheila A. Egoff Book Prize for her previous work, The Gryphon Project. She lives with her family in Vancouver, BC.
If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of ONE PARIS SUMMER by Denise Grover Swank, scroll down to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy. It’s a sweet and romantic and delightful and super quick summer read and one that should definitely make your summer TBR piles!
Read on for more information about the book and author and don’t forget to enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
Title: ONE PARIS SUMMER
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Release date: June 7, 2016
Formats: Paperback, audio, eBook
Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.
Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.
Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period. Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks. She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.
Must be 13 or older to enter. There will be ONE winner. Prizing courtesy of, and sent by, the publicity agency. Giveaway is US/Canada.
Enter in the Rafflecopter…
Title: THE WAY I USED TO BE
Author: Amber Smith
Release date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
Read an EXCERPT
Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
Note: This review is based on an ARC received from a publicity agency in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
It’s not often that a book will affect you so strongly that you will dissolve into tears again and again, shake with rage at all the wrongs done to the character, ache with sadness for all they have lost, become so invested in the outcome that you’re tense with the anticipation of what will happen for the entire read, and be completely wrung out emotionally by the story’s end. Yet Amber Smith has managed to do all that with her debut and so much more.
THE WAY I USED TO BE is a brave, gripping, affecting, intense, breathless, if at times uncomfortable read. It challenges readers to bear witness to Eden’s attack and her transformation in the years following – her loss of innocence, her fear, her anger, her disassociation, her emptiness, her self-loathing. It takes readers to dark places, it makes them feel what Eden is going through, it helps them understand her reactions, her decisions, her pain.
Amber Smith did a phenomenal job of sharing Eden’s story, of creating a strong bond between readers and her character, of putting all that raw emotion on the page. From beginning to end this is an absolutely heartbreaking story. It isn’t easy. It’s upsetting. It’s unsettling. It’s ugly. But to have presented it any other way wouldn’t have felt honest.
This is not a story for all readers. It is difficult and sobering and distressing and demanding. The author did not tiptoe around Edy’s rape or its aftermath. But for those readers who are willing to take this journey with Edy, THE WAY I USED TO BE promises to be meaningful, significant, and truly unforgettable.
Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.
Amber Smith is a writer and artist who grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and freelance art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.
Title: EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR
Author: E.K. Johnston
Release date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
Note: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
E.K. Johnston’s EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is a powerful, emotional, tough yet positive story that is exceptionally well-written. It’s not easy reading a story about rape. It’s challenging, difficult, angry-making, heartbreaking. But the author presents it in a way that let’s you see beyond that violent act and get to know her character, connect with her, see her for who she is and was and not just as a victim. It is a moving and engaging story that, while it puts you through the ringer, allows you to feel hope.
Hermione is strong, but not unrealistically so. She has a great support structure in her parents, her friends, her coach, the police officer assigned to her case, her therapist, yet not one that feels as if she’s too fortunate to have it. She refuses to be labeled as a victim, act like one, or be treated like one. But she’s not afraid to rely on her supports to help her through the day-to-day.
EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR lets you get to know Hermione both before her attack and after – flaws and all. It lets you share in her recovery process. It focuses on the positive – healing, strength, resilience, goals, choices, power – but keeps things believable. It tells Hermione’s story in a way that is as helpful and informative as it is compelling. And while it doesn’t shy away from the subject matter, it doesn’t feel exploitative.
While the topic may be one that is too mature, too personal, or too sensitive for some readers, it is not one that should dissuade other readers from picking up this incredibly amazing book. EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is not too dark, too depressing, too weighty. The author struck just the right balance between seriousness and entertainment. It is uplifting. It is heart-rending. It is hopeful. It is beautifully written. Hermione Winters is inspiring.
And it is one of those extraordinary stories that might just help one reader find a way through the darkness or find a way to help someone they know through it. I cannot recommend this enough.
Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
E.K. Johnston is represented by Adams Literary