Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

source: e-galley from HMH
publication: April 5, 2016, Clarion Books

I think there's something wrong with me.
I've been in the worst book slump of my life for the past couple of months—one or two standouts but mostly a ton of books I feel pretty "meh" about or DNF'd completely—so when I saw this one up on Edelweiss, I thought I heard a chorus of angels.
You see, I've been looking forward to this book for about two years now, since Sarah Rees Brennan first said she was writing a retelling and I guessed that it would be A Tale of Two Cities, just because she's Sarah Rees Brennan.
When I found out I was right, I gloated and jumped for joy and the promise of pain to come.
So you should know that I think I put too much pressure on this book to take me out of my reading slump. Another factor to blame might be that I read it on my e-reader, which makes things less memorable and also the formatting was weird and I might not have caught everything I was supposed to catch.

This book did not click with me the way I wanted it to.
The idea behind it is great: a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities wherein the reason "Sydney Carton" and "Charles Darnay" look so much alike is because one is a magic doppelgänger, and the reason he's so shady is because DARK MAGIC.
Somewhere along the way, the execution diverged from the brilliance of the concept.

My first problem was that Lucie, the main character, lacks a distinct personality and goes off on inner monologues that can sometimes last nearly an entire chapter. Once I really thought about it, I realized that maybe between six and ten actual events occur in this book (which is not enough for a 350-ish page novel), and the rest is just Lucie narrating about her past, or the Stryker family, or Ethan specifically, or attempting to explain the magic system. Now, I have read A Tale of Two Cities and I enjoyed it, but I know it's not exactly a high-speed car chase either. The difference is that in the original, I knew there were things going on in the background, and I had an idea of what those things were, because obviously they were things that actually happened in actual history and didn't need to be fully explained in fiction. In Tell the Wind and Fire, I knew there was some kind of rebellion, but I didn't know how violent it was, or what was being done to fight back against it, or anything like that. All I knew was that Lucie was being used as their symbol, which, frankly, is a trope that's so worn out in YA that it's like a pair of shoes whose sole has come detached from the heel and it just drags on the ground, calling attention to itself.
The rebellion itself was pretty standard fare and I wouldn't have minded it much if the magic had been explained better. I want to see these two different types of magic fighting each other! But really, the only people I got to see use their magic were Lucie and Carwyn. I'm still not sure how it worked for anyone else—I know that Dark magic can control emotions and that makes it dangerous, but I want to see it in action. What kind of emotional manipulation is most dangerous for Lucie? For the Strykers? For your average Light magician on the street? On top of that, what does Light magic actually do, besides light things up and put collars on doppelgängers?

There are a few moments in the book when Lucie shows her colors by actually standing up to people—something the original Lucie Manette obviously never did—but even those moments fell flat for me, because they felt like she was reciting lines fed to her by social justice activists. I agreed with everything she said, but the novel would have been more successful at illustrating the "Don't touch a girl without her permission" rule, for instance, if Lucie hadn't couched it in the argument that it makes people look "stupid" when they do. More important than how it makes the violator look: it makes the victim feel objectified, belittled, and like her body is not her own. That is what he should care about. HOWEVER, I loved that once she told Carwyn to stop, he did. I always appreciate a male character who learns respect by listening; probably more than I appreciate the ones who unrealistically pop out of the womb as fully-formed feminists, despite being a member of a family with no women in sight (coughEthancough).

Which brings me to: Ethan. Lucie spent so much of the book explaining why she loved Ethan (he helped her adapt to the Light city, he respects her, he's kind, etc. etc.) that I couldn't feel anything at all for him myself. And unlike with Sydney Carton, I couldn't really feel anything for Carwyn either, because Lucie decided he was evil and she hated him. We never got the inside glimpse of Carwyn that we did with Sydney—until the end, that is—because this novel is in first-person POV from the perspective of someone who assumes he's not worth her time.
When Carwyn's Sydney Carton moment did finally come along and he confessed his affection for her*, it frustrated me that Lucie had not noticed before, while simultaneously seeming out-of-character for him. I don't know.
I just don't know.

But anyway, the end was fantastic. Emotions happened.

I liked this book. I feel like I'm only listing the things that didn't work for me, but I really did like it. I will still buy the hardcover (because, I mean, look at it) and I'll try to sell it. Who knows, maybe I'll give it another shot someday when I have a real copy to read and am out of this reading slump. But for now, this is my review.

Characters: 3/5
World-building: 2/5
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Retelling creativity: 5/5

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

source: e-galley from Penguin
publication: March 15, 2016, Dutton

Let me start by saying, the cover artists did an amazing job finding the right image to represent this book. The cover evokes the exact same feeling you get from reading it. 

If you ask me, Exit, Pursued by a Bear should go up there with Speak as a classic YA book dealing with sexual assault, both because it's that good and because the juxtaposition would show just how broad a spectrum there is for those situations. The aftermath can vary wildly, and I think these and every book like these are important because they can hold a mirror to so many more teens through their differences. 

What E.K. Johnston has done is finally, finally give us a novel about a well-adjusted character with a constant support system full of people willing to give her what she needs. Hermione doesn't remember what happened to her, but she knows she's changed by it in some fundamental way and she's not hiding from that. She always did and still does care about everyone else's feelings—is she making them uncomfortable? Should she be thinking about herself less, and them more?—but she learns to demand respect, to make her assault about her and no one else.

Hermione's character development alone would be enough to make this novel satisfying, but we also get her friendships with her team, and especially Polly, who may run a little toward the typical tough-best-friend but who is integral in helping Hermione decide how she will let people treat her. We get her supportive family who aren't quite sure how to approach her now, and her quirky therapist (yes, she willingly sees a therapist and for once, she's a teenager who isn't bitter or rude about it). We get her cheerleading team, that deep-down familiar camaraderie and friendship that shaped her into an empathetic, levelheaded leader. I never did sports in school, so all of my knowledge of team dynamics was based on Friday Night Lights; I can't believe I'm saying this, but this book was more effective at making me wish I had been on a team.

Not only does Johnston give us positive relationships and a heroine who talks about her feelings, but she also addresses all the things you would want a book about rape to address: rape culture, victim-blaming, unwanted pregnancy, psychological damage, and the idea that a victim stops being her own person and becomes some kind of message for everyone else. I had never really thought about it before, but this book opened my eyes to how many people can and will use someone else's tragedy as a vehicle for their own betterment; I loved Hermione for noticing it, and I loved her more for not being filled with rage about it.

Overall there were so many things I loved about this book, but probably the biggest were the friendships—of all different kinds—the keenness and sensitivity with which it addresses the issues, and most of all, the main character. I'm really glad I got to know her.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top, er, 22...ish books of 2015

It's almost 2016, so that must mean it's time for me to decide which books are my favorites of 2015. As usual, these are books I read that were published in 2015. There are books published in 2015 that I have not read, and there are books I read this year that were not published in 2015—those are not included in this list. 


Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas [SPOILERS]


I have seen two batches of reviews for this book:

  1. The reviews that are all "PERFECTION" and "BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ" and "BEST IN THE SERIES" and so forth.
  2. The reviews that are all "I feel like I just read 650 pages of fanfiction" and "WHAT HAPPENED TO CROWN OF MIDNIGHT?????"
If I were basing my review solely on the second half of Queen of Shadows, I would probably be leaning closer to the former batch.
Unfortunately, there are about 320 pages in this book that are not the second half. And I understand all too well what those latter-batch people are talking about.

If you recall my review of Crown of Midnight, I was a mess after reading that book. I stayed up extra late to finish it, and even though it was a shorter book than the rest of the series, it blew my mind. I liked the direction the series was going in, I liked the complicated relationships between the characters, I loved the plot twists. I loved those big power moments when characters would swoop in, unafraid, and be totally badass. Sarah J. Maas's writing was just starting to develop those sentences that just kicked you in the gut or filled you with pride or made you want to blow up buildings, and I ate up every bit of it.

Heir of Fire, on the other hand, I did not like much. I gave it 4 stars out of obligation, because everyone was loving it and I felt like I was missing something, and it was a good book—once again, the ending was the best part—but to be honest, it took me a month to finish it because I was bored out of my mind. I wasn't interested in Rowan, had minor interest in Sorscha, and did not know where in Hellas' dominion Manon came from or how she was relevant to anything. My favorite part was Chaol's character development at the end, and Dorian. Always Dorian.

Which brings me to: the first half of Queen of Shadows
Where all of that character development, all of that love that had been painstakingly cultivated for each character, vanished. Chaol and Aelin in particular went back to how they acted right after Nehemia's death. And Dorian was reduced to a plot element, a source of tension between Aelin and Chaol.
Here are the problems I had with every character in this book:

Aelin: She literally blames Chaol for everything in the first portion of the book. She marches in with the arrogance I thought she had outgrown and accuses him of abandoning Dorian [CHECK YOURSELF IN THE GD MIRROR, GIRLFRIEND.], of still being loyal to the King, of hating everything she stands for. For some reason Chaol has become a symbol of everything wrong with Adarlan, even though she told him in Crown of Midnight that he reminded her of what the world ought to be. And it doesn't feel like she just changed her mind or saw some truth about him that she hadn't seen before; her attitude toward him is like he's beneath her now because she is a queen and he had the audacity to make a mistake that hurt her. It feels like the author changed her mind about him, and so the protagonist had to as well.
Additionally, she is ruthless and selfish in the beginning of the novel. The kind of ruthless and selfish she was in The Assassin's Blade and Throne of Glass. One of my main issues with her character has always been that she gives up on people far too easily, even people she claims to love, and there has been zero development in that area so far. I realize that she's bent on vengeance for the crappiness of her entire life, but at a certain point it just starts to seem like a childish way to approach the world.

Chaol: Before I start, let me say this: I am a Chaol stan. I love him, I think he's flawed and realistic and misunderstood, but I think all of that pales in comparison to his quiet strength and loyalty. When Celaena hated him and he'd broken his own heart with the mistakes he had made, he still took care of her. He put her on that ship to Wendlyn and stayed behind to give her the space she needed away from him. He stepped back when she required it, and his anger and resentment toward her were just as valid as hers toward him. They both still thought they had a chance with each other.
Enter: QoS Part I Chaol. Anger and resentment are apparently all he knows. He blames Aelin for Dorian's fate (the difference between them being that she refuses to acknowledge her role in it, while he's been beating himself up with guilt ever since he ran out of the throne room that day). He judges her and calls her a monster even though he had clearly begun to accept who she was in Heir of Fire. It was his main character arc. And by the time QoS starts, it's somehow been forgotten.

What I'm saying is that this book does a lot of takesies-backsies with these two characters. I don't want to make assumptions, but it feels like SJM ended CoM intending for Chaolaena to be endgame, and then she invented Rowan and blew those plans into smithereens. 
There's a part in QoS where it even feels like Aelin is acknowledging this: she tells Chaol something like "I hope I didn't give you false hope, with what I said that day. That I'd pick you." The thing is, Why did she even say it, if their demise has been planned all along??? I can appreciate that she was given the freedom to move on and find someone new to love, but I don't think this series needed to go that way; it doesn't ring true to me, especially given Rowan—which I'll get to in a moment.
Go ahead and tell me that Chaol supposedly loved Celaena and not Aelin, but that's a cop-out, if you ask me. She was Aelin the whole damn time—that's the point. He loved Aelin, even if he didn't know it. You can't just shut off who you are.

I almost don't even want to write about the other male characters, because I really, honestly can't stand them. I mean, they're all good and fine, but not my taste at all. Testosterone and pissing contests: somehow both annoying and boring at the same time.

Rowan: Aelin's carranam. Her "friend" who was strictly her "friend" in HoF and suddenly they spend a few weeks apart and now it's romantic between them, no matter how much they denied it in the last book. I would still like to deny it. 
  • Possessiveness? Not romantic.
  • Hero worship? Not romantic.
  • Animosity toward any other male who comes close to her? Not romantic.
  • Thoughts about getting your scent all over her? NOT ROMANTIC.
  • Oh and he *hates* Celaena Sardothien? Remember when Chaol received that "You can't pick and choose which parts of her to love" speech from Dorian? Judging her for the identity she was forced to take on = NOT ROMANTIC.
Oh but he's a big strong Fae prince, the most powerful in the land of course, and he's spent hundreds of years JUST LOOKING FOR HER! SWOONITY SWOON
I basically just dislike how he's more concerned with making her his than he is with being her person. Their romantic relationship developed too quickly and it was too high-stakes for me to believe it (there were no small acts of friendship or love, it was all "you are my queen and I will die to protect you" and wanting to rip her clothes off and Aelin acting like he was more important to her than her own life). Remember when Chaol got her chocolate cake?

Aedion: I wish that he could have been more of a comic-relief character, especially with Dorian not himself in this book. He was basically the same person as Rowan, except less powerful, and related to her so not romantically interested [the first male character in the series who hasn't been, because SHE IS JUST SO AMAZING, AMIRITE?]. They picked up where they left off far too easily after 10 years apart, and he was blind to every single one of her flaws: that she makes rash decisions, that she has little concern for people unless she can see herself in them, that she'll blame anyone but herself for her problems. They bickered, but it was always about Aedion doing something wrong, never her.

Now, on to the good.
Manon (eventually).
second-half Chaol
last-third Aelin
Rowan at two moments in particular (the healing and that thing he did with the wind)
That one person toward the end who shouted, "All hail Dorian Havilliard!" (and Chaol pumped his fist in solidarity, wearing his #1 Dorian Fanboy t-shirt)
of course
the one and only
my precious baby prince boy
beautiful cinnamon roll
too good 
too pure

Dorian Havilliard.

The second half of this book would receive a solid 4 stars from me, as opposed to the first half's 2 stars. I'm still dropping one because of Rowan/Aelin and because some of the writing got too heavy-handed (we get it, everyone kicks ass), but the plot was much more intricate, the characters had more believable interactions, and just generally it felt more like the Throne of Glass series.
Mostly because the focus came back to Dorian, finally. We got little glimpses of him around Manon, because the demon was afraid of her (nice, Manon), and I actually hurt myself from flailing too hard, but of course it wasn't until the very end that we finally got Dorian back.

Dorian: So worth slogging through this book to make sure he got saved. He's the same old Dorian, but with haunted eyes and a new title: Precious Baby King Boy.
Lysandra: Girlfriend rocked this book. You don't understand how happy I was that she and Aelin realized they had been judging each other when they could've been friends, and that Lysandra proved to be more than Aelin assumed her to be, and that she got a chance to SAVE THOSE BIG STRONG MALES WHO WERE ABOUT TO GET THEIR ASSES HANDED TO THEM HA HA HA
Manon: You know, I still didn't care for her through most of this book. She was too ruthless, too insensitive, too oblivious to her own cruelty. And then she brought out the Dorian inside Dorian and I forgave her because that was literally all I wanted. And then Aelin taught her a lesson in mercy, and Manon did the honorable thing and returned the favor. BY STOPPING HER FROM KILLING DORIAN.
You see what's really important to me, don't you.
Oh, and then she saved her witches and Elide I swear to god if SJM reneges on this character development in the next book I'll quit the whole series
just kidding no I won't because Dorian
Elide: The cowering and shaking grated on me because I'm so used to all the female characters in this series doing things, but eventually I grew to love her.
Nesryn: I like her. I want more of her, because I refuse to accept that she's just another kickass girl with a crush on Chaol, who's pretty much just like "okay cool"
etc. etc.

What I took away from this book is that I am no longer going to view this series the way I once did—as a story about a hidden queen coming back into her power and finding someone to stand by her side along the way. She did that, and it wasn't satisfying to me.
I'm going to view this series as a story about a queen, hidden because of tragedy, forced to become a weapon before she could take back her kingdom, who learns about friendship from two boys whose bond is stronger than any magic. Because that, for me, is what this book ended up being about. Dorian and Chaol. Heir of Fire was painful because there was a crack in their foundation; they didn't know if they could breach the distance between them. Queen of Shadows was rewarding because they did. In HoF, Dorian sacrificed himself for Chaol. In QoS, Chaol sacrificed himself for Dorian—and only made it out alive because of Aelin.
This book may not have been what I wanted, but the ending alone made it enough.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review: Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

source: ARC from Hachette
publication: October 20, 2015, Little, Brown

This is one of the few books I've read recently whose synopsis actually gives you a sense of what the book is about. Wolf By Wolf is about Yael, a girl who survived a World War II death camp only because she was chosen as a science experiment: mysterious injections gave her the ability to change her face at will. Now, she's impersonating Adele Wolf, the victor of a cross-continental motorcycle race, so that she can enter the race, get invited to the ball, and kill Hitler. Meanwhile, she's got to keep everyone thinking she is Adele, including Adele's twin brother and another competitor, Luka, with whom Adele has a hush-hush romantic history.

I really liked this book. It was fast and interesting and didn't recall for me any other YA novels I've read (or movies I've seen, for that matter). I think what I love most is that Yael truly does question her own ruthlessness time and time again—there is a line that she never wants to cross: killing, or causing the deaths of, innocent people. Crossing that line would go against everything she is fighting for, and I think it's really important that this was a concern of hers, because a lot of times characters will feel bad for killing someone but insist that it's in the name of some greater good. Yael knows that that would be a lie, that "greater good" is the kind of justification that can go too far—just look at Hitler.

This is the second Ryan Graudin book I've read (the first being The Walled City) and I am noticing that she is not afraid to give her stories a lot of different elements. In this one, you've got the motorcycle race, the death camp flashbacks, Yael's training, her mission, her relationships with Felix and Luka, and the mystery of what happened at last year's race. Graudin pulls all of these off well; it never feels like too much is going on.

At the same time, though, with this much going on it does detract from the character development a bit. Yael is a complex character with a metric ton of history, so my issue wasn't so much with her as with Felix and Luka. I liked them just fine, but they never felt fully fleshed-out for me—and I wish that Yael had been given a chance to have deeper connections with them (or even just one of them). There weren't really any relationships driving this story: it was all about Yael and the world she lives in, and her mission to make it better. If you're someone who likes plot-driven stories, this won't be so much of a problem for you, but if you subscribe as I do to the mantra that character is king, you might be slightly disappointed.

I am split down the middle when it comes to the prose. It's very innovative and evocative, but sometimes language is just piled on so heavily that it can be distracting. Some sentences are stop-you-in-your-tracks powerful, while others are sort of cringeworthy and had me asking, Why can't you just use adjectives as adjectives??? (Graudin has this habit of using adjectives and verbs as nouns, which I also noticed in The Walled City, and it rarely works for me). But then again, there were so many quotes in the last chapter or two that had me going "Daaaaang," I can't say the writing style wasn't also one of the best things about this book. It was.

Now, Yael's ability to "skinshift"—a word that's not used until the end of the novel—is not entirely explained. I imagine that's because Yael doesn't know how it works, she doesn't know what was in those injections, but I do wish it had been explained somehow. I mean, it would be one thing if she were casting an illusion, but she is literally changing the structure of her face, as well as her eye and hair colors. It seems that her body, however, does not change when she shifts. Which is another anomaly altogether. Suspension of disbelief does not come easily, is all I'm saying.

But! This is a series! There's more room for the things I found lacking in book 1! I look forward to finding out where Yael goes next.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

source: e-galley from Macmillan
publication: October 6, 2015, Henry Holt
**all quotes are from uncorrected proof**


Here's something you should know about me: the number of playlists I have for a book is directly related to how much I loved that book. My favorite book, which I read for the first time more than two and a half years ago, has since claimed 182 songs and 15 playlists in my iTunes library. I should mention that some of those playlists and songs go with the sequels, because that is relevant to what I'm about to tell you.

Six of Crows does not have a sequel yet*. I did not read Six of Crows two and a half years ago; I finished it four days ago.

It already has 9 playlists and 57 songs.

If that does not tell you enough, here are some additional thoughts:

Six of Crows is an edgy whirlwind heartbreaker of a book. It's a fantastical, gritty, emotional story about not one, not two, but six three-dimensional characters, every one of whom feels like a real person. It's a heist story, a resilience story, and a story about the vanishing line between human and monster. (I can already tell you that one of the most popular quotes of the book will be "We're all somebody's monster.")
"When everyone knows you're a monster, you needn't waste time doing every monstrous thing."
The characters and their relationships were my favorite thing about this novel, but I don't want to say too much about them because I think the experience of getting to know them made me all the more attached. I will say that they're a bunch of Weebles, you guys. They've spent most of their lives wobbling in one way or another, but they refuse to fall down. Two of them are dealing with a betrayal that cost them everything. One of them is hiding severe PTSD after a traumatic and heartbreaking experience. One is tired of always being someone else's property. One is a gambler whose loose lips get him in trouble, and the last is a runaway from a life of privilege and secret pain.
There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.
And they have not stopped fighting for what they want, whether it's revenge, freedom, love, or acceptance. It turns out that Weebles make for really gripping characters.

So, what brings this eclectic cast of people together? Well, Kaz Brekker, of course. He's assembled this talented crew for business purposes: a man came to see him about an impossible heist that will either get them killed or win them a life-changing sum of money, and who is Kaz Brekker to turn down a deal like that?

The heist has something to do with Grisha and brings about moral debates between some of our characters, but I won't go into detail because the synopsis is similarly vague. I will say it's a new side of the Grishaverse, because now we're in a part of the world where Grisha are something to be used, not revered or respected. The novel then takes us to another part of the world that believes they are monstrosities, that their existence is wrong and must be corrected. This is the central conflict between two of the protagonists, one of whom is a Grisha and one of whom was conditioned to believe all Grisha are evil, and it's a beautiful Jongritte-esque situation if I ever saw one.

There's not quite as much magic in this one as there was in any of the original Grisha books, but that's okay because when it is used, it's used perfectly. Alina Starkov's journey was, in a way, defined by magic: when she found her magic, she found her power, but losing her magic was ultimately how she kept her power**. In Crows, magic and power are inversely linked; characters who have magic must choose how to be powerful despite it, which is a really interesting flip of the dynamic, and I actually think the unconventional approach made for more nuanced character development.

Another thing I loved about this book (okay, I loved everything, shut up) was the strategy behind everything that happened. Kaz is like a male, criminal, slightly more underhanded version of Kestrel from The Winner's Curse, so he's always ten steps ahead of everyone else and he uses any information he can get (thanks to Inej) against someone if he has reason to. He can usually think of a reason to.
Kaz cocked his head to one side, his eyes focused on something distant. 
"Scheming face," Jesper whispered to Inej. 
God, I love him. Kaz is the antihero I think everyone wanted the Darkling to be (or is still pretending the Darkling was). I could talk to you about Kaz Brekker for days without interruption. But while he may be the one I feel strongest about, he is by no means the only one who had me basically writhing with emotions. Hence, the playlists. 57 songs in 4 days. You do the math.

When I finished the book, I was all
and Leigh Bardugo was all

So congratulations, Bardugo, you have ruined me. In the best way possible.

*at least not one I have read because, hi, this book isn't even out for another 5 months.
**by which I mean, her power over her own life, which is the only kind of power Alina actually wanted and the only kind that's relevant to the main six in Crows.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

source: galley from Penguin
publication: August 18, 2015, Dial Books

This is going to be a very vague review because if I get into details, major spoilers will happen. Spoilers that are central to the plot and yet are not explicitly named in the synopsis, so I would feel bad about putting them out there.

As far as characters go, I think this is Huntley Fitzpatrick's strongest book yet. Tim Mason's problems may be a little far-fetched for some of us—he is, for all intents and purposes, a responsible guy, and yet somehow he is an alcoholic drug addict with a penchant for one-night stands. Everything that he could screw up in his life, he does. At the start of this book, he's been clean for a few months and attending AA meetings... and he's only seventeen years old.

So, yeah. A little bit out there. The teenage alcoholic thing doesn't always work. But with Tim, for good reason, it does. Disbelief goes out the window when you read about Tim's relationship with his father. His father has no concept of how to be a supportive parent and his mother hides from conflict, so it's no wonder their kids don't respect themselves when their parents don't respect them either. The thing about Tim is that he feels responsible for everyone but himself, because he's been told so many times by his father that his mistakes have erased everything about him worth saving.

Alice also feels responsible for everyone but herself, but that's because she has no time for herself. She's been taking care of her six younger siblings since the car accident in My Life Next Door and no one's made her a life raft to keep herself afloat. She goes out with boys who don't matter because she cannot let another person into her life who does.

Except, of course, that Tim Mason now lives in her family's garage apartment, and even though he's The Boy Most Likely to Have Even More Problems than Alice, their relationship works. I liked them together a lot better than I remember liking Samantha and Jase, just because they're both so imperfect and it's not effortless, but at the same time it's the easiest thing in either of their lives.

Now, all of that said, I did have issues. Certain scenes seemed out of place—maybe that will get fixed in editing, as I read an extremely early copy—and certain things I just felt didn't need to happen. There's a moment where Alice has a panic attack and had apparently had a previous one during the course of the book that we didn't see, so it felt a little jarring. I did not notice any indication that she had an anxiety disorder, so it was kind of "extra" in my opinion. There was also too much focus on... let's just say biological things. Without spoilers, certain aspects felt extremely tangential to the story, and one part in particular had me screaming "TOO MUCH INFORMATION."

Fitzpatrick also has this habit of writing incomplete sentences that grated on me after a while (I remembered this from her previous books as well). Narrators will drop the "The" or the "I" from the beginning of an expository sentence as if they're chatting with someone, and it just feels wrong to me outside of dialogue. I'm sure a lot of people won't notice this, but I was ready to start wielding a red pen.

So yeah. I loved Tim and Alice as characters, didn't love the pacing or all the plot points, and could have used more complete sentences. But it was a satisfying read and I'll be looking forward to her next book.