Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

13560086Pushing the Limits, Book One

392 pages

Published June 1st 2012

Noah and Echo are two broken people, looking for answers and fighting for what they want.

Echo has repressed memories of a night two years ago when something horrible happened to her. She has the scars, and the incomplete story that people told her, but beyond that, nothing. She wants to find out the truth, but is scared it may break her even more.

Noah has been in the system since his parents died, and he’s had his run of bad foster parents. Because of some of his bad choices, he’s lost most of his access to his younger siblings. He wants it back, and is willing to do anything.

Just as Echo is starting to put herself out there again, she and bad boy Noah keep getting thrown together. There’s obvious attraction there – but does she want her old life back, with the footballer boyfriend and peppy friends, and her father controlling her? Or does she want a new, better life, where she can have all of the things she really wants?

 

There was so much hype about this book. While I thought it was pretty good, I found it a little tedious. I think my main issue was that I hated how Echo just let everyone tell her what to do, and I could not wait until she finally started doing what she wanted to do. It seemed to take ages. I understand that that’s who she is, but I was uncomfortable while reading it.

The characters were all right. While I sympathized with Noah and Echo and their issues, I didn’t really connect with either one of them.

I’m not sure if I’ll go on with the companion novels or not. But I would recommend it to people who like high school novels with a bit more substance. The style of it sort of reminded me of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.

My Rating: 3/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.13/5

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

girlsinpants_coverfinal

Book Three in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series

338 pages

First Published January 25th 2005 by Delacorte Press

The sisterhood is back, along with their magical travelling pants. This summer is the eve of the rest of their lives. High school is over, and college awaits.

Carmen picks up a job working as a sort of companion for Valia – Lena’s recently widowed grandmother. Unbeknownst to her, Valia is miserable and crabby and a downright nightmare to be around. Lena’s father dragged Valia to the states after her husband died, but she wants nothing more than to go back to Greece. On one of their trips to the hospital, Carmen meets Win – a cute guy who volunteers there. Unfortunately, he keeps ‘catching’ Carmen in moments of random acts of kindness. But if she lets him see the real her – the quick-tempered, feisty version of herself – will he still be interested?

Lena is all set to go to art school in the fall, but when her conservative father walks into her drawing class and sees the live model – that is, the nude, live model – he freaks out and tells Lena that he will no longer be paying for her to go to an art school. Under the wing of her art teacher, Lena sets out to create an amazing portfolio that will score her a scholarship to the school of her dreams.

Tibby is uncomfortable with all the change that is going on. Brian further complicates things when he asks Tibby to be his date to the senior dance. Suddenly they are no longer just friends, but something much more. The problem is that Tibby isn’t really sure what she wants or if she even likes this new development.

Bridget is going to be coaching at a soccer camp much like the one she attended two summers ago. She knows her old pal Diana is going to be there and expects the summer to be a total blast. What she doesn’t know (but would if she read any of the information they sent her) is that Eric will also be there. Bee decides that this is okay, she is different now and vows not to lose herself again. She can handle this – the two of them will be friends – nothing more. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants…

 

Out of the first three books, I think that Girls in Pants is my favourite. I love that Bee gets a second chance to do the right thing with Eric, and that Carmen finally gets to have a cute little romance. On that note, it’s nice that Brian and Tibby finally get somewhere, as well! And on a kind of opposite note, I really liked that Lena wasn’t plagued so much by her feelings for Kostos. It’s touched on a little bit, but her main focus is on her future.

I feel that I should mention Ann Brashares writing again. The books are all written in third person, which really works. Somehow you seem to be closer to each girl than if it were written in first person. I think that if it were written that way, it would feel too disjointed and confusing because the story does jump around from each girl quite quickly. The chapters don’t have numbers and the characters seem to get a couple of pages each before it moves onto the next person. I like the way that this is done. In multiple POV books where characters get a whole chapter each, there’re often little cliffhangers and so I spend the first part of the next chapter begrudging the fact that I have to read about the second character when I just want to know what’s going on with that first person. Then, of course, I’ll get into that chapter and want to know about the second character while I’m next reading about the first. I kind of hate/love that feeling (but mainly hate). I guess it makes you want to read more, but I like the style in the Sisterhood books better.

There’s a lot of hope and happiness in this novel. Growth and second chances and future-induced trepidation. There doesn’t feel like a lot of drama, which is nice after the second book (which seemed to have a lot of it!). I can almost feel the sunshine emanating from the pages.

Girls in Pants is a lovely edition to the series. Highly recommended.

My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.80/5

Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett.

12026682318 pages
Published July 26th 2010 by Createspace
Goth-girl Jen bets her friends that she can bring Geek-boy Trevor to the dark side.  Jen begins her pursuit of the actually-quite-cute Trev (“It’s Trevor“), but the more time they spend together, the more Jen likes him. First as a friend, but then as more. Is she corrupting the Geek, or is he dragging her out of the dark?
Jen is seventeen and has been kicked around foster families for years – her own parents so far out of the picture you’d need some kind of super telescope to even see them. A while ago, she decided that she would be the one to decide when it was time to move onto a new family, and start acting out until her current family can’t handle her anymore. Now, with Trevor in the picture, and the fact that the Grants, her foster family, actually seem to care about her, Jen starts thinking that maybe it’s time she settled down?
But when Trevor finds out about the bet, will Jen be able to convince him that it wasn’t all a lie?
Jen plays to win, she just never imagined what the prize would be.
Geek Girl really impressed me. Once again, I found myself in the position of wanting to transition from new adult books back to young adult so I can hopefully tackle some of the many novels of that genre that are lying in wait. I try to pick the transition book carefully because sometimes I find the much younger main character very annoying after reading people’s voices that are my own age. Anyway. I really really really liked this book.
Jen and Trevor are just great. It’s always exciting and fresh to read a teen romance where the girl is bad and the boy is good, as opposed to the never ending list of bad boy/good girl novels out there. Their romance is also just very well done. It isn’t rushed – they start out as friends and slowly move into more. Even when they are together as boyfriend and girlfriend, it’s quite innocent. It’s refreshing to read a book without sex or swearing.
I also really love Jen because here is a girl that has had the worst childhood, but she’s finally beginning to accept that she might have a second chance. She’s finally growing up and wanting to settle down. I’ve always enjoyed reading about people who are broken being put back together again (but it has to be done the right way – even though so many contemporary new adult novels are about broken people, they aren’t as nice as this. I think it’s the innocence thing – but I’m not sure).
My fellow young adult readers, definitely give Geek Girl a try!
My Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads rating: 4.09/5

Unteachable by Leah Raeder.

17978680268 pages

Published July 27th 2013 by Velvet Pony Press

Okay, so Maise has some serious only-attracted-to-older-men tendencies. She grew up without a dad and is aware of the Freudian theory in play there. But the reasons she only sleeps with older men go beyond her daddy issues – frankly, boys her age have no clue what they’re doing and are just really immature.

She is eighteen and just about to enter her senior year of high school when she meets Evan at a carnival. They end up in his car and have a connection that goes beyond sex. So afterwards, Maise kind of freaks out and has to get out of there and away from this man who seems to care.

But lo and behold – Evan is actually Mr. Wilke, Maise’s new film studies teacher at school! Despite the obvious road block in their way, Maise and Evan soon begin a torrid (technically legal, thank you) affair.

All the while, Maise develops a friendship with Wesley, another student in her film studies class. She’s not the type to have friends, but Wesley is different. There is also Maise’s mother, a drug dealer who has never really made much of an effort to protect her daughter from any of the scumbags that hang around as a result. Maise herself doesn’t do drugs – she’s too smart for that. She doesn’t want anything to jeopardise her future: she’s going to get into a good uni and out of this town. So where does the teacher that she’s falling for fit into her future?

“…You should love something while you have it, love it fully and without reservation, even if you know you’ll lose it someday. We lose everything. If you’re trying to avoid loss, there’s no point in taking another breath, or letting your heart beat one more time. It all ends.” His fingers curl around mine. “That’s all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths.” 

My first thought when I started to read Unteachable is that it’s really beautifully written. The language and imagery is rich and heavy. Maise is so different from your average high schooler with superficial issues. I absolutely loved her right from the start. As for Evan: it’s weird, but I don’t have any really solid feelings about him. I mean, I think that he was right for the story, but I don’t count him as a really memorable and sexy fictional male lead. My opinion of him kept changing as I got further into the novel.

It’s definitely quite graphic. The sex scenes, for example – there are a lot of them! And there’s lots of f-bombs, too. Just a heads up.

I’m finding it hard to put my feelings about Unteachable into words. All I can say is that it’s a really good book – the writing is of a much higher quality than other novels of it’s price range (and even a lot of novels that cost a heap more!) and Maise is incredibly captivating – a character who is worthy of your time.

If you are into new adult stuff, then read it.

My rating: 4/5

Goodreads rating: 4.06/5

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger.

10757771Hardcover, 273 pages

Published September 5th 2011 by Poppy

At Lissa’s high school, the soccer and football teams have a massive rivalry going on. In autumn, it’s war! Often when Lissa and her quarterback boyfriend are having ‘couple time’, some idiot from the soccer team will attack and Lissa’s idiot boyfriend will go after them. She is sick of being second best to some stupid rivalry and assembles all the girlfriends together to hatch a devious plan – the girls will withhold sex (or whatever they happen to be giving their boyfriends) until the boys stop this little war! It starts out with just the footballers girlfriends, but soon the soccer player’s girlfriends join in too.

Soon the boys find out. For a while they don’t do much about it, but then the unattached and unattainable Cash, one of the star soccer players, smarts up and leads the boys properly – strategically trying the lure the girls back into their arms. It just so happens that Cash and Lissa have a bit of a past, which makes all this withholding business that much harder. Who will cave first?

The battle is on.

This is my second Kody Keplinger novel, and once again it is all about teen sex. When I read a book like this, I am always like “seriously? these teens are having that much sex??”. My high school experience was so opposite to this book. Obviously, this may be because of the crowd I hung out with, the fact that I live in a different country to Lissa and also my own views and opinions about teen sex (they are obviously very different to the authors, but I will put that aside). Anyway, I am always a bit incredulous to start with when I read something like this, but I get over it after a while and just settle into the story.

There were some good questions/thoughts raised about the double standards of sex, i.e. a girl who has sex a lot is a slut, but a guy who has sex a lot is a hero. Also, it makes you think about the way girls are treated: like a girl who doesn’t ‘give it up’ is a prude, or a tease, but then if she is having sex, then she’s a whore. It’s really not right for women to be treated this way but we all know it happens. (now I’m digressing …) One day I was thinking about how there are hardly any movies where there is a strong, woman heroine – in this day and age, you know? I guess that’s why novels are so great – there’s plenty of heroines out there.

Anyway, back to Shut Out. I think I liked it. I read it all in one go in the bath just now. I think that it was a superior book to The Duff, the first novel by Kody Keplinger.

If you like young adult books that are unafraid to be bold about sex, then I guess this is for you.

My rating: 3/5

Goodreads rating: 3.74/5

House of Night series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast.

First Book Published in 2007

In the House of Night world, vampyres are just a fact of everyday life. As a teenager, you may become marked, which means you are going to go through the change and turn into a vampyre (or you may just die). Then you go to a special school for blood suckers to train to become an adult vampyre. There’s a heavy focus on a higher power. In this case, it’s the vampyre goddess, Nyx. There are high priestesses and lots of ceremonies and stuff.

Zoey is our main gal. She’s just been marked and moves to the house of night school in her city. She is more special than your average vampyre fledgling. She quickly makes friends, love interests and enemies while learning about vampyre stuff and battling evil.

I’ve no doubt that you would have seen the House of Night series around. Maybe you’ve even read some of them. I bought the first three at the same time, and if I had only bought the first one then I doubt that I would have kept going. To begin with, these novels are pretty frustrating. There’s a shameless amount of name dropping, silly replacement swear words, annoying characters and ridiculous romance elements – that’s right, there isn’t just one guy after Zoey, there’s three!

But after book three, it improves a lot. Everyone seems to mature, the love square disintegrates and the plot is a lot better too. There’s ten books out so far, with more to come. I’ve only read the first seven or eight, but I’m going to catch up one of these days.

So if you gave up early on in the series, then why not give it another go – I promise it gets better!

Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty.

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Book One in the Ashbury/Brookfield companion series.

Paperback, 262 pages

Published May 1st 2000 by Pan

Elizabeth Clarry lives with her mum and goes to a private school. Her english teacher – who is ‘upset that the Art of Letter Writing is lost to the Internet generation’ and wants to ‘rekindle the joy of the envelope’ – has just organised a letter exchange program with a nearby public school. She begins writing to Christina Kratovac. Meanwhile, her friend Celia – who can be quite unreliable and/or flaky – has run off again. Elizabeth hardly sees her mother, who is very busy and keeps making porridge for her, even though Elizabeth REALLY HATES PORRIDGE! She doesn’t see her dad much – who, as it turns out, has a bit of a dark secret. She receives letters from organisations like ‘The Society of High School Runners Who Aren’t Very Good At Long Distance Running but Would Be if they Just Trained’ and the ‘Society of People who are Definitely Going to Fail High School (and Most Probably Life as Well!)’ and even, after she gets some secret admirer notes from someone on her bus, ‘The Secret and Mysterious Association of Secret and Mysterious People’ and the ‘Young Romance Association.’

The whole book is written in letters, as you may have already guessed. I love all the quirky and unreal letters from the organisations. I just love written-in-letter-style novels in general!

Jaclyn Moriarty is one of those authors who is very funny, but in a different way. I really dig her sense of humour. Plus, this gets some serious nostalgia points because my friend recommended it to me when I was still in primary school (ah, those were the days!), so it has all sorts of nice childhood memories attached to it. But even as an adult, whenever I read it I love it just as much as I did as a kid. And all the follow up companion novels are awesome, too.

For people who love Australian young adult and/or written-in-letters novels, and for those who enjoy a certain strain of humour.

My rating: 5/5

Goodreads rating: 3.82/5