Monday, June 29, 2015

Lost and Found: Emmy & Oliver

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 2015

*ARC provided by the author - Thank You! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Emmy and Oliver weren't just next door neighbors when they were kids, they were best friends. But everything changed when they were seven years old and Oliver's father kidnapped him. Overnight their sleepy little town went on high alert, and no one more so than Emmy's parents. But Emmy never forgot her friend - she couldn't even if she wanted to. While the search parties eventually dwindled, their worry didn't. Ten years later, the incredibly early curfews and expectation that she'll attend community college so she'll still live at home have pushed Emmy into secret applications and surfing behind their backs. But then everything changes again when Oliver is found, comes home, and doesn't really remember the girl next door at all, but she's exactly who he needs.

While I've only read one other of Benway's books (her debut, Audrey, Wait!), I completely loved it and was jumping at the chance to get to read this. From the summary alone, I could tell it would be something I'd enjoy: guy and girl friendships, childhood friends, growing pains, finding your own voice - and it was all here. Emmy is a smart girl but she's not perfect, and neither are her life-long friends Caro and Drew. It was refreshing to see what I felt like was a realistic look at teens - in my experience, many of them really are good kids, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. The Triangle (as they call themselves) felt fully formed. Two of my favorite scenes were when Emmy declares "what's wrong with being like other girls?" and when the trio is genuinely trying to understand a directive from their parents but can't follow the muddled grown-up logic at all.

And of course, there's Oliver, another good kid without whom this story wouldn't happen. Benway does a good job letting the audience get to know this boy well before he actually comes back into the picture, and then redefining him again since readers, like Emmy, haven't known the person he's become in the past ten years. While it's understandable that he plays his cards close to his chest, I would have liked to have known a bit more what was going on in his head a la Heather Demetrios' Josh in I'll Meet You There. At times, the story felt a bit rushed or that there was the potential to go a little deeper, however, the story still worked really well. I sympathized with this character and all he's been through, constantly having to be the one to pay the price for something he never asked for.

All in all, this was a solid contemporary story taking on an issue that happens far too often but is rarely discussed, especially in young adult literature. I can especially see this book being a big hit in the hands of Sarah Dessen fans or any reader who likes books that take on a bad situation but can also find the silver lining.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Robin Benway's Website
Robin Benway on Twitter

Friday, June 19, 2015

Video Review - If You Find This Letter

In which I finally get around to recording a video review of Hannah Brencher's memoir If You Find This Letter. Thank you to the publisher for sending me this ARC - this in no way impacted my opinions of this book.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Royal Welcome Back: Royal Wedding

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries #11)
William Morrow and Company, 2015

*ARC Provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015 - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinion of this book.*

For years, Mia poured her heart and soul into the pages of her diary. What started as a place to sort out her feelings about her mom dating her Algebra teacher became the chronicles of a teenage girl discovering she's the heir to the throne of Genovia all while dealing with all the usual hassles of high school. Now Mia's back, 25 years old and coping with her royal family's latest fiasco. Dad's having a mid-life crisis on the verge of an election, the paparazzi is as annoying as ever because even though she and Michael Moscovitz are as in love as ever, he still hasn't proposed, and Mia feels like even after all those princess lessons from Grandmere, she still has no idea what she's doing. When Michael does pop the question, another scandal is about to burst. Will the two love birds finally get their happily ever after, and is Mia finally ready to rule?

I was lucky enough to get this ARC at ALA Midwinter back in January and swore at the time that I was going to read all the books I got there in the order of their publication dates. But with this, I couldn't help myself (and not just because I got to meet Meg for the 2nd time and she signed my original copy of The Princess Diaries from when I was a tween!). I devoured Mia's latest story in a matter of days. Reentering the world of The Princess Diaries was like reconnecting with an old friend, and just as I have grown so much since the last time I saw her, so has Mia. Yes she still has a flare for the dramatic and her imagination is as active as ever, but she's matured and leveled out in a lot of ways. She's gotten the hang of this princess thing. Her tendency to self-sabotage seems to have faded with time. She's still grounded and caring and sure a little crazy, but who isn't?

While this is technically the 11th book in a series, people who have never read its young adult predecessors will have no trouble picking this story up as a standalone read. Cabot redefines her cast, bring back plenty of old favorites along with some new faces, and like Mia, they're all grown up. It's refreshing to see a story that's actually a pretty realistic representation of what life is like for people in their mid-20s. Friendships aren't as face-to-face as they once were, but that doesn't lessen their bonds. Tough choices must be made, but a good support system makes them a little bit easier. And never underestimate the power of a positive outlook and true love with a great geeky guy. Don't believe me? Diary entries, text message conversations, even a few shopping lists letting us into Mia's mind and prove it.

Meg Cabot is a master of the feel-good stories, giving us quirky protagonists in extraordinary situations you can't help but root for. On a blizzard weekend in January, this was just the pick me up I needed, and I can tell I'll have fun rereading this one in the years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Meg Cabot's Website
Meg Cabot on Twitter
Meg Cabot on Tumblr