I don’t know where to begin with “Picture Us in the Light”. The simple fact is that, at first, I thought the book was kind of slow and the odd section every now and again written in second person threw me through an uncomfortable loop, but then… well, then magic happened and I fell in love. This is such a great book with so many tender messages and depictions of what it’s like to be a modern day teenager who struggles to be perfect on paper for college admissions, constantly pushed to the brink by helicopter parents, and the deadly consequences of what being told “you aren’t good enough” can do to a young person. There were so many tender moments depicting parent/child relationships, and Danny’s love for Harry. The synopsis makes you think Danny is confused by his feelings for his friend Harry, but he never was. He knew, always knew, that he loved Harry, that he wanted to be with him, that the idea of being far away from Harry in college was devastating. And, interwoven with the slow burn mystery that gets unraveled through the course of the book, is an honest commentary on some current stances when it comes to race in America and immigrants. So, even with the slow start, this book had me as enamored as Danny was with Harry come the end.
If there is one central message to “Sophie Last Seen” it was: grief has no timetable. Or at least, that was the message I took away from this raw tale of a mother’s unrelenting search for her missing daughter. The story focuses on the way grief, and the anxiety riddled feeling of not knowing whether you should mourn someone’s passing or never give up the search, changes people. The way it shapes them and how it can both destroy, and reinvent them. Jesse, at the start of the novel, is nearly destroyed by the lack of answers she has regarding Sophie’s disappearance. She constantly searches, turning herself into an alcoholic and a bit of a hoarder as she believes every little thing she finds is a clue as to what happened to Sophie and where she is. Sophie’s best friend, Star, is nearly crippled by her guilt and the thoughts of what could have happened to her best friend to the point where she is haunted by images of Sophie and turns to self-harm in order to banish the disturbing thoughts and images. Their grief, guilt, and destructive coping mechanisms are incredibly raw and they create a tangible ache in the reader, even if they haven’t experienced what these characters are going through. It’s definitely not a light read, but it is a powerful one.
I haven’t really read a YA fantasy that is written in an experimental present tense narrative before. It makes “Curses of Scale” read a bit like a dreamscape, or like a stream of consciousness, especially as it’s also a bit of a reverse timeline. Allow me to explain: the main character is Niena, or Squirrel, but we don’t meet her until about 14% into the book. That first part of the book is spent on her future husband as he races toward saving Neina from her destiny, 15 years in the future. Then, we get snapped back to our MC and her grandfather and see that she really just wants to learn how to be a bard. Then a dragon shows up and things go from bad to worse pretty quickly, especially when a meddling fairy brings Neina’s husband to the past. Why the dragon shows up and what it’s after isn’t really clear until just past the 70% mark, unless you go back and read the synopsis. Then you know that Neina is cursed to become the dragon if she kills it, but will lose those she loves if she doesn’t. It’s an interesting premise that is dark and harrowing because of the stakes and all the action that takes place, but is hampered by the narrative style.
I don’t usually cry watching sappy shows or reading sweet books. It’s just not something I do. I think the last time I cried while reading was maybe sophomore year in high school and Sirius had just died? Yeah, it’s been awhile. Enter “Far From the Tree”. This book had me, well, not BAWLING because I’m still mostly heartless apparently, but I was tearing up in several places. This book… oh my goodness, so good! So many feels! 90% of it is not traditionally “happy” but that’s what I loved about it; it’s heavy and beautiful. “Far From the Tree” follows the story of three siblings who are separated when their bio-mom puts them up for adoption/loses them to foster care as babies. These kids’ lives are real and raw and tragic, but also inspiring and you just ache for them and want the best for them. They each are going through so much and when they learn that they have siblings, instead of it destroying them further, it turns into this beautiful relationship. The kind of relationship and support system each child needs at that precise moment in their lives.
I’ll just come right off the bat and say this book is NOT a reverse harem story, so if that’s what you pick it up for based on the synopsis, you will be disappointed. The first book in the “Ruined Hearts” series is all about the set up. It’s about introducing the reader to Eona, who can manipulate time. It’s about her adopted family and how she is kidnapped and taken to a place where magic is both feared and coveted. It’s about how she learns to use her abilities and about her abusive past that lead her to first discovering what she could do. It’s about her learning who she can trust and what true evil looks like while she is kept in the king’s court and trained by one of his top advisors. That’s what it’s about. The romance bit? We aren’t even teased to it until about 75% into the book.
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