Second Look: MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

Disclaimer: I received a galley of this book from Netgalley for an honest review. Moxie will be released September 19, 2017.

I have to admit, I first heard about Moxie after seeing a lot of angry tweets about a certain Kirkus review about two month ago. Of course, if the review pissed off that many people, I had to look into it. What I found was one of my favorite books of 2017.

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

When I started reading Moxie, I was unnerved by how familiar it seemed and how much it sounded like my own high school alma mater. Football rules all, special treatment is given to some and not others (I don’t want to generalize, but let’s face it… it was mostly jocks and cheerleaders), funds were invested in new athletic fields instead of the students’ education, and the dress codes never made much sense. Obviously, Viv’s high school is an extreme setting, but I’m curious to know if Moxie was inspired by real events from Mathieu’s high school experience.

Regardless of your own personal experiences, there is no better time for a book that makes its readers feel so empowered. What I love most is that it shows how you can be a feminist and support feminist ideas WITHOUT BEING A WOMAN. Even though the crux of the story is Viv’s fight against misogyny, the girls aren’t the only ones helping fight for female equality, and I think that’s awesome.

Viv’s friendship/relationship with new guy Seth is super interesting. He’s totally on her side and supports her all the way, but there are some fundamental things he just doesn’t get. The give-and-take conversations between the two of them are pretty enlightening because you get to see feminist questions and arguments from different perspectives.

Everything about this book is simply amazing. The writing, the characters, the relationships, and the friendships forged among the brave girls at this Texas high school make my feminist heart leap for joy. It’s an encouraging reminder that it doesn’t take much to ignite a spark and bring about change.

Major props and a big thank you to Jen Mathieu for giving such an honest voice to feminism and helping young women release their inner RiotGrrrl!

OFFICIAL RATING: 10/10 

*Shameless library promotion: Ashley and I are reading Moxie for our Forever Young Adult” Book Group meeting in November. If you’re in the area, come meet with us! You can check out our FYA Facebook group to see what we’re reading each month!  

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Second Look: GENUINE FRAUD by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud
E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book free of charge from Book Expo America. I am not receiving any form of compensation for my honest review.

Summary: Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three. Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her. A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

REVIEW:

It is going to be SO HARD to write a review for this book without giving anything away. As you know, I am totally anti-spoiler so I promise not to reveal any surprises.

Lockhart’s uniquely told story begins at the end with Chapter 18. It’s obvious Jule, our main character, is on the run. She’s calling herself Imogen and is quite skilled at becoming someone else when she needs to. As the story progresses (or regresses?), we go backwards through the last year of Jule’s life and gradually learn how she came to be where (and who) she is.

I loved the way this book was written. The unique format keeps the reader guessing along with the many twists and turns the story takes from beginning to end (or end to beginning? I told you this was going to be hard to write…). I flew through it because I needed to know how Jule’s life came to be. I want to write SO MUCH MORE, but I really don’t want to give anything away. So, like, ya know… someone else read it and hit me up so we can chat.

I was totally prepared to give this a 10/10 rating, but I felt a little let down by  the ending, mostly because I was expecting something different. After the extensive build-up of Jude and Imogen’s characters, the ending seemed a little rushed. I’m not completely dissatisfied, I just wanted more.

E. Lockhart has always been a great writer, including her earlier, light contemporary novels (I particularly loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks). But in We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud, Lockhart takes it up another notch with complex, psychologically suspensful, beautifully written, mind-blowing stories.

OFFICIAL RATING: 9/10

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Second Look: THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

I’m sure you’ve heard about The Hate U Give by now, right? The #1 NYT Bestseller for YA fiction this past week? If you haven’t, then I strongly question what parts of the Internet you’re trolling.

Angie Thomas’s book is very timely and deals with an extremely intense and complex topic: an unarmed black teen is shot and killed by a white police officer. The main character of our story is Starr, the witness of the aforementioned shooting, who struggles with coming forward with the truth or staying silent to protect her family’s safety.

I can’t even begin to describe how honest and perfect this book is. The language, family dynamics, personal relationships, and racial struggles are all so amazingly written. Angie T. puts her readers in her character’s shoes, making The Hate U Give not just a story, but an experience.

I like to think I’ve never been prejudiced or racist a day in my life. I respect the different lifestyles people have, and am a firm believer that you never know what a person has been through until you experience it for yourself.  I’m a suburban white women who will never know what it’s like to be an oppressed minority. But reading this book helps you walk that proverbial mile in a young black girl’s shoes (specifically Jordan’s, in this case).

Angie Thomas helped me understand that though I’m not racist, there are certain stereotypes I wrongly understood to be true, and indirectly perpetuated them by doing so. It was eye-opening, and I love that this book can help people recognize their own unfounded prejudices.

Not gonna lie… I think this book should be on every high school reading list in the country. I’m sure it would be challenged and banned somewhere, but ya know what?  I’m okay with that because those ridiculous challenges just draw more attention to books and result in more people reading them.

EpicReads posted on their blog that if you only read one book this year, it should be this one. And you know what? They’re absolutely right. This is quite possibly the most important book anybody can read, especially right now with the current state of our world. But it also has very likeable characters and intermittent shots of humor that help break up the intensity without disrupting the story’s flow (Starr’s family members cracked me the hell up). But the acknowledgment by Angie Thomas at the end was what got me…

SO GET OUT THERE AND READ IT.

OFFICIAL RATING: 10/10

BTW, as if Angie Thomas wasn’t having an amazing year already with this epic book release, the book was also picked up by Fox 2000 to become a feature film. WOOT WOOT! Congrats, Angie!

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Th1rteen R3asons Why: 10th Anniversary Edition!!

Can you believe it’s been TEN YEARS since this little beauty graced our bookshelves for the first time?

And what’s more is that this edition contains (ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?): Jay Asher’s original notes when he was fleshing out 13RW, a letter from Asher to his readers, and his ORIGINAL UNPUBLISHED ENDING.

 

 

 

 

I was so excited to read this super secret ending and wanted to dive in right away. BUT. I realized it has probably been ten actual years since I read it. Even though the message of 13RW and the feels I had while reading it are burned in my memory forever, I have to admit I forgot a lot of the specifics of the story. So to fully appreciate such a momentous occasion, I decided to re-read it. And I’m glad I did. It didn’t hit me quite as hard as the first time, but only because I knew what was coming.

But re-reading it also made me realize how important this book STILL is ten years later, especially where we’re at now in our society. I forgot what Hannah suffered through. How she was gossiped about. How she was stalked. And how she was bullied into feeling like she had no value. And most importantly, how people’s actions can snowball into a heinous mashup that makes you not want to live.

If you haven’t read 13RW, first of all, why are you reading this blog and NOT reading this book??? Secondly, there will be spoilers for both the original AND the unpublished ending. Read on at your own risk…

So the original ending.

In the last chapter, we see Clay trying to figure out how in the hell he’s going to face his classmates now that he knows what Hannah experienced that made her want to end her life. After realizing how disgusted his is with everyone on Hannah’s tapes, including himself for not doing more to reach out to her, he decides to reach out to someone else. Skye made a brief appearance earlier in the book, and Clay mentioned how odd it was that she suddenly turned goth-y and introverted. This time, he’s not going to let her walk away like Hannah did the last time he saw her. The last page shows Clay approaching Skye and possibly befriending her.

I can’t think of a more perfect way to end Clay (and Hannah’s) story.

Now for the unpublished ending. Again, spoilers abound. You’ve been warned…

The last chapter starts off the same way with Clay trying to go back to school the day after hearing Hannah’s tapes. But this time, when he tries to leave school, Courtney Crimson (what a perfectly villainous name) approaches Clay and, after a brief conversation, reveals Hannah’s alive after all! Her parents found her after she took the pills, got her to the hospital, and she’s going to be fine. The last page shows Clay hightailing it out of the school to go see her at the hospital.

That’s a super condensed summary, of course, but you get the basic gist. So???! Whaddya think???!!

My personal opinion? I love the unpublished ending because it gives hope to both Hannah’s character and the readers. Hannah suffered through a lot of pain, emotionally and physically, but she WILL BE OK. And that’s a beautiful thing.

HOWEVER. I’m glad it wasn’t the ending they actually published. Jay Asher’s book has been used in thousands of classrooms and opened up countless discussions on bullying, suicide, and how our actions affect other people. And in order for that to have that kind of impact, 13RW needed to end the way that it did… with Hannah’s death, and Clay reaching out to another student because of what he heard on Hannah’s tapes.

If Hannah doesn’t die, the message of the story is cheapened with a type of “don’t worry… everything will be ok!” attitude. All the kids on Hannah’s tapes wouldn’t have been affected as deeply if Hannah had survived. The finality of Hannah’s death is what drives the point home, and THAT is why books like this are so important. I thought it was brilliant before, but now that I know how it *almost* ended, it’s somehow even more powerful.

Have you read the 10th Anniversary edition? And if so, what did YOU think of the alternate ending? Seriously, someone please weigh in on this because I’m DYING TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH PEOPLE.

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Second Look: GEMINA: THE ILLUMINAE FILES_02 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

gemina

I have been eagerly awaiting Gemina since I finished Illuminae over the summer. Illuminae was so intense and amazing that I couldn’t imagine how Gemina could be as good, and was afraid I was going to experience what I call “The Hunger Games Effect.” You know, where book two of a trilogy only acts as a bridge to the series finale? I’m going to come right out and say it was NOT the case.

Gemina isn’t a continuation of Kady and Ezra’s story from Illuminae, but more a companion story of what is happening to Hanna and Nik at the Heimdall Jump Station. But don’t worry, we still hear from our favorite out-of-this-world couple (pun-intended). They’re not primary characters, but they do make appearances.

Here’s the official synopsis, via Goodreads:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

So after I was done, I gently closed the book, calmly hugged it to my chest, and then held it in my lap and quietly stared with my mouth hanging open as I tried to digest what I just read. I emailed Ashley a little bit later to try to explain my feels, and this was all I could muster:

Much like Illuminae, this book has EVERYTHING you could ever want: excitement, betrayal, epic fight scenes, bad ass heroines, swoonworthy guys, hateful villains, scary-ass worms with four mouths that paralyze you, astrophysics…

Ok, so maybe not everyone is a nerd-girl like me who thinks astrophysics is fascinating. And I think my interest in it was one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. If you’re not a science geek, some of the plot twists in Gemina will either blow your mind, or confuse you into paralysis (much like the four-mouthed worms). To Kaufman and Kristoff’s credit, they do a great job of breaking down the stuff that some may find difficult to understand.

This book is such a fun wild ride. The writing is superb, and I love one of the quotes so much that I’m considering it for my next tattoo. It’s non-stop action, and you can never guess what awaits Hanna and Nik around the next corner. And speaking of Hanna and Nik, these characters are amazing and just as fun and likable as Kady and Ezra. I didn’t think I could find a book crush I love more than Ezra, but Nik is definitely in my Top 5.

Gemina is a little longer than Illuminae by about 50 pages (weighing it at a whopping 659), but the epistolary format (a word which here means “a work of fiction written in the form of documents, such as letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, etc.”) makes it fly by. Plus it’s so freaking addicting you won’t want to put it down.

A five star rating doesn’t even seem like enough stars for this book. I’d give it 15 stars if I could. But since I suppose we have to draw the line somewhere or we’d get REALLY out of control with our ratings, I’ll behave. But I’m just going to put this out there… The Illuminae Files is absolutely one of my most favorite series of all time EVER I absolutely cannot wait for Book 3.

OFFICIAL RATING: 10/10

P.S. Ya’ll can thank me later for teaching you a new word. I expect you all to go out and use “epistolary” in as many every day situations as possible. Maybe you can start by telling everyone you know about Illuminae and Gemina.

 

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