Not Now Not Ever

Not Now, Not Ever is a Quick, Delightfully Nerdy Read

Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Published by Wednesday Books: scheduled for Nov. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 330

Y’all! This book is so. Effing. Fun.

I won the ARC in a Goodreads Giveaway and I could not have been more thrilled! It’s so unbelievably nerdy, every chapter having nerd references that make it that much more fun, if you’re into that (which I most definitely am).

I somehow missed that this is a sequel! So I have not read the first book, but I have now purchased it and can’t wait. And I don’t think anything was ruined for me. I enjoyed this book very much as a standalone.

Not Now Not Ever

All the Wrong Chords Book

Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer. 

1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer’s going to be great.

The Writing

The writing here is so fun! Very quick-paced, easy to get through. Had I had the time, this is exactly the kind of book I love to read in an afternoon!

The pacing is spot on. No parts of the book lag at all.

This is one of my favorite kinds of stories. I adore books that are easygoing, fun, and not too serious. This is exactly what I was in the mood for. I LOVE books about summer, with cute little romances and there’s just something about going away to camp that I die for. So this, where Ever goes to what is basically a nerdy summer camp (though at a college) was right up my alley.

If you like books like When Dimple Met Rishi or Summer Unscripted, this is exactly the kind of book for you.

Summer Unscripted by Jen Klein

The characters here are what really make this so worth it! We have a pretty decent-sized ensemble cast, most of whom are distinct characters and easy to keep straight. Some we don’t get to know as well, and that’s how it should be, given the camp situation. But the counselors are fun, and the other kids competing with Ever are really great.

Ever, our narrator, is awesome. She’s such an amazing main character for a lot of reasons. She’s brilliant, funny, a bona fide genius. She’s not extremely girly, opting for running clothes, but she’s also not the typical archetypal character we see. Whenever I read a story about a girl like Ever, there’s a distinct “I’m not like other girls” quality. (For instance, my only problem with WDMR is that Dimple puts down on traditionally girly girls.) We don’t get that with Ever. There’s no jealousy issues, there’s no “I’m not girly so I must not be pretty.” She’s a confident, kickass chick and I love her.

Brandon, our romantic interest for Ever, is awesome. He’s nerdy af, like, so nerdy. He uses a typewriter, for crying out loud. But I think this is super healthy, because here we have another nerdy, nice, decent guy, who is also sexy and whom you’re excited about. I too often see the “bad boy” thing in YA, and I love leading men who break that role.

I also want to say I believe the romance between Ever and Brandon is incredibly realistic and very healthy for teens. It’s not love at first sight; it’s given healthy and real time to develop and that’s so important to me.

We get a couple of really great things, here!

Ever is black, so we get a brilliant, genius black girl as our main character, which is phenomenal. No stereotyping. She’s also quick to call out racism/talk about it in a way that’s not alienating and I think it’s really healthy for any young people reading.

Ever wears her hair natural, she has a full afro, which I love to see! Great shot of this on the cover, too.

We also get an interracial relationship, between her and Brandon, which is awesome (especially because neither make this a big deal, as it shouldn’t be).

And a greatly diverse cast among the side characters, also!

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is that this is a fun, easy read that will most definitely tug at your heartstrings!

The Lost Causes novel

A Taxonomy of Love is Something Really Special

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

Published by Amulet Books: scheduled for Jan. 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 336

A Taxonomy of Love caught my attention right away! First, the title. I love it. The cover is adorable, and so apt. And the description of Spencer, our narrator, who has Tourette Syndrome (something I hadn’t seen in a book, and certainly not like this), and who is obsessed with the idea of classifications and taxonomies. I knew I would love it, and I did.

A Taxonomy of Love

All the Wrong Chords Book

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

The Writing

The writing here pulls off something I think can be super difficult, which is that through the one book the kids age quite a bit. At the start, Spencer and Hope are just thirteen. Their crushes are very indicative of children that age. By the end, they’re nineteen! It’s a huge leap. The story takes place in separate parts for each age, and it does mean we miss a lot. For instance, we leave one year with Spencer and Hope not having spoken for a while, and when the next part starts, they’re friends again. This can be SO incredibly hard to pull off, and it is done so well here. The kids genuinely feel like they age without becoming whole new people, and it doesn’t feel rushed.

There’s also just a lot here that’s special. Most of our chapters are from Spencer’s point of view, first person present-tense narration. We also get some instant message (is this antiquated phraseology? Am I showing my age?) conversation between Hope and her sister, Janie. As well as letters from Hope to Janie. Interspersed throughout are little taxonomies, written out by Spencer, and they are so fun.

The Characters

This is so special to me, because the characters and my opinions of them changed quite a bit!

First, we have Spencer. He is just such a wonderful kid. We watch him go through so much. Not only his interest in girls starting to peak, but his life with Tourette Syndrome, his relationship with his brother (always perceived as perfect), the abandonment of his mother, his relationship with his father and stepdad. There is A LOT here, and I rooted for him the entire time. He’s also just such a good guy. Given his relationship with Hope, I was genuinely amazed and thrilled that the phrase “friend zone” was never thrown around.

Hope goes through her own arc, and thank fuck, right? Because how often do we see these stories from boys points of view where they chase their manic pixie dream girl around and we have no idea about what’s even going on with her. Hope is a person. She’s flawed, she deals with her own grief, and she’s not always entirely likable. I think it’s perfect, necessary that she’s like this. Her grief is so realistic to me, and I definitely felt for her even when I didn’t really like her.

The side characters are fun. Spencer eventually has some great friends. His brother and father also both go through incredible transitions.

As I mentioned earlier, I’d never read a story about someone with TS! And definitely, absolutely not like this. I hadn’t seen one as the main protagonist. And when I have seen them, they’re often in movies to be laughed at (think Duece Bigalow: Male Gigalo, if you’re old enough). This is an honest depiction of a kid trying to have a normal life with tics, and it’s so great.

Spencer also has an interracial relationship at one point, and they’re not shy to talk about the issues. They live in Georgia, and he talks a lot about being both proud and embarrassed of where he’s from. His girlfriend isn’t cast in a play because the male lead is white and they don’t want them to kiss on stage. They discuss the removal of the Confederate flag from the school, and how the kids are no longer allowed to wear it, and we get to see some interesting growth from Spencer’s brother and dad over it. The discussion about race playing a decent size while not being what the story is about is a huge deal to me.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is that this is a fun, easy read that will most definitely tug at your heartstrings!

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

Starswept by Mary Fan

Starswept

Starswept by Mary Fan

Published by Snowy Wings; Scheduled for August 29th

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 400

I just realized the irony of this: the last two books I read were called Starswept and Starfish, both with Asian MC’s! How coincidental. I love it.

Starswept by Mary Fan

All the Wrong Chords Book

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Starswept by Mary Fan

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Starswept. I honestly went into it expecting to love it more than I did. But there is a lot to love here, and the premise is a huge part of that.

First, there’s a lot going on. It’s dystopian, there are aliens, there’s this whole music school element. It doesn’t seem like it should all mesh but it does, very well for me.

The music school where we start is great because it feels almost commonplace, though it’s run, to a degree, by aliens and holograms. There’s so much pressure, so much realistic detail of band kids, and I really enjoyed that. The descriptions of the school, the performances, are all beautiful to me.

I found the dystopian aspect of this fascinating, though for the most part I’m burnt out on that. I love that this is an entirely new take on that. Aliens that could easily have taken over Earth don’t, because they’re so intrigued by human art. Instead they “sponsor” humans they like, and bring them to their planet. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth has it pretty terrible.

I like the aliens, too. I think their powers are fun and interesting, and the way they’ve chosen to interact with Earthlings is very cool.

So, overall, I like the story very much. I will say I’m confused because as far as I’m aware, this isn’t part of a series? Or at least it wasn’t introduced to me that way. If this is a stand alone book, the entire world remains unresolved at the end. That may seem like a spoiler, but I think it’s important to know because I would have liked to have known. I am left feeling distinctly unfulfilled because the parts with closure weren’t the parts I cared about.

The Characters

Our narrator, Iris, I have mixed feelings on. I think she could be a little boring at times, but I did root for her, which is mostly what I’m looking for. The problem for me is that I’m mostly interested in the story, the world that has been built, but the big focus is on Iris and Damiul, and I couldn’t really get invested in either of them.

Damiul is the alien that Iris meets. I wanted to like this so much, I am SUCH a sucker for interstellar love. This was a little too insta-love for me. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, we saw few of their meetings. But they were short and Damiul had to keep so much from Iris that their love didn’t excite me, it confused me. I can understand how it happened, when we have a girl so obsessed with finding “her prince,” but I couldn’t connect with their love story.

My two favorite characters are side characters, and both are only around for one half of the book or the other. I love Milo, Iris’s best friend on Earth. He’s fun, and considerably less naive. Then, on Adryil, we meet Cara, whom I also adore.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Overall, I liked it. The descriptions were beautiful. The world-building, especially during the second half, are phenomenal.

There are some pacing issues, and I think that’s the biggest problem I’m having overall. Some parts moved quickly and were really fascinating, some parts were too slow and it was hard to stay engrossed in the world.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Is that I would have LOVED for this to be split into two books. I think if the story between Iris and Damiul had been given more time to develop, I could have been on board with them. And I will be very disappointed if there is no closure for the world itself.

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish: You Have to Read It

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published by Simon Pulse: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 320

OH MY GOD. I’m honestly still freaking out. I love this book so. Effing. Much. There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me, so let’s get started and I hope I can do it justice.

Starfish Novel

All the Wrong Chords Book

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

The Characters

I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator. But let’s start with those around her.

For a little while, we get a really great female friendship between Kiko and her best friend, Emery. I love it for a lot of reasons, but especially because though Kiko has issues with her own appearance, she never takes it out on Emery. It’s so, SO rare that I see a book with two female characters where “I’m mad because she’s prettier than me” isn’t a main plot point. None of that here, though. Their friendship is so loving and beautiful.

Jamie, Kiko’s other best friend, is so wonderful. He’s such a perfect example of how a guy can be supportive and helpful and still incredibly sexy, no “boring nice guy” trope here.

Hiroshi, Kiko’s mentor, is AMAZING. I love his whole family. I love young girl – old man friendship, and I am obsessed with this one. They made me cry more than once.

And then there’s Kiko’s family. I cannot describe to you how happy it makes me when I thoroughly despise a character. There’s nothing I hate more than a lackluster antagonist. Kiko’s mom kills me, because she is so awful and so perfectly well-written that you can’t help but loathe her. I won’t ruin it, but I bawled my eyes out when I read the starfish metaphor, because EVERYONE HAS A FUCKING STARFISH IN THEIR LIFE. You will feel it so hard.

And then we have Kiko! I love Kiko. I love her so much. I love her art, I love her character. I even love her inability to stand up for herself because I completely get it. Kiko’s journey as an artist and a victim and a Japanese woman is so gorgeous. I cried so many times watching her grow, and that is the best compliment I could ever give. I can, occasionally, find timidity exhausting, but I understand and empathize with Kiko at every step though we couldn’t be more different.

The Writing

Is gorgeous! The pacing is on point, I was never bored for even a second. I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading.

I’m a painter, so I may be biased, but I LOVE the art in this! I’ve read stories about painters where we know the character is an artist but we don’t see or feel it. We feel Kiko’s art. We know exactly how she feels, we’re tuned into her drawings and paintings and I just adore that art is such a major part of this.

I don’t know Akemi, the author, but I’d be willing to bet she’s a feminist. And I love that. I love YA with feminist ideas peppered throughout; we need young people to see it.

So here’s what I thought about the representation in it:

We get this amazing story about a half-Japanese girl whose (white) mother seemingly hates the Asian parts of her. She doesn’t know a lot about her culture, she’s upset about not fitting in, not looking like the people around her, etc. I think this is beautiful, SO great for young Asian people to see the progression in Kiko, and any mixed-race people can, I believe, empathize. It is so hard to not feel like part of any culture.

Miss Akemi is on Twitter and you should most definitely follow her <3

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!



All The Wrong Chords book

All the Wrong Chords

All The Wrong Chords by Christine Hurley Deriso

Published by Flux; scheduled for December, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 204 (ebook)

Wellll I broke my streak of super happy reviews, but that’s okay! Three in a row was great, and I’m thankful, and this one is not the end of the world. I think it’s time for another pro/con list!

All the Wrong Chords book

All the Wrong Chords Book

Scarlett Stiles is desperate for a change of scenery after her older brother, Liam, dies of a drug overdose. But spending the summer with her grandfather wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Luckily, Scarlett finds something to keep her busy–a local rock band looking for a guitarist. Even though playing guitar has been hard since Liam died, Scarlett can’t pass on an opportunity like this, and she can’t take her eyes off the band’s hot lead singer either. Is real happiness just around the corner? Or will she always be haunted by her brother’s death?

Pros:

All the Wrong Chords Book

I really liked every secondary character! Scarlett’s grandpa is awesome. Her best friend, Varun, is hilarious and I love their texting throughout the book. Her sister is great, the band members are great. You get it. Everyone is awesome. Except Scarlett, but we’ll get to that in the cons.

All the Wrong Chords Book

Is really easy to get through. It’s not a super long book, and it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a very quick, simple read.

All the Wrong Chords Book

I love any story that works music into it. I really like that Scarlett uses the band to help her with her feelings about her deceased brother.

All the Wrong Chords Book

I think it is portrayed very realistically, though, that said, I haven’t lost anyone as close as a brother to death. Everything associated with grief, like the sense of guilt and the “what if” and the heartbreak, that all felt very natural and realistic to me.

Cons:

All the Wrong Chords Book

Ohhhh Scarlett. I am conflicted, because Scarlett does get better as the book progresses, and her decisions become much better toward the end also. Scarlett has some of my least favorite fiction “girl behavior” though.

  1. Scarlett is endlessly jealous of her sister’s looks/way with guys, though it’s mentioned several times that they’re often mistaken for identical twins?
  2. Scarlett ignores everyone and alienates her friend/sister to try to get closer to a guy who is clearly garbage.
  3. She treats the other band members poorly with the shitty guy, in order to establish some sense of camaraderie.

Her entire relationship (using the term loosely) with Declan is awful and painful and full of red flags she chooses to ignore. Now, I know, teenagers do this. We all choose people who are wrong for us (see 90% of everyone I’ve ever been involved with) but she becomes obsessed with Declan despite his ignoring her to hit on her sister, his constant dgaf attitude about their band, his actively treating her poorly, and his trying to get her to move faster physically than she wants to. NOT OKAY.

Again, people do this. We like the wrong people. But I thought back while reading this to some of my worse relationships, when I was my least rational, and I could at least always say things like:

“Well he’s a really charming alcoholic.”

“I know she’s mean but she’s really funny!”

“Okay yeah he lies a lot but he’s also really brilliant.”

My point is, they had good qualities. I’m sorry, but Declan has zero good qualities. She’s obsessed with him based solely on his looks, and lets it mess up everything for her for more than half the book. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so attracted to someone’s appearance that I’ve been willing to overlook character flaws in EVERY OTHER CATEGORY. Is this a thing? Maybe it’s just me, and please let me know if you’ve ever been so hot for someone that you didn’t care that they had nothing else going for them.

This made it really unrealistic for me, as you can see, and it made it hard for me to connect to Scarlett.

All the Wrong Chords book

So, this quote from Scarlett really upset me:

“I’m being overly critical, right? Of course any normal guy is going to try to push things physically as far as he can. How many dudes are dying to “talk” in the middle of a make out session?”

Ooooookay. So, we have our narrator asserting the idea that a lot of young women have: “normal guys” can’t help themselves around us. They cannot control their impulses. They are mindless, vagina-seeking zombies, who want us for sex and only sex. This line of thinking disrespects everyone. That she attributes his fucked up behavior to his being male infuriates and disgusts me.

Even if she comes around to eventually seeing that Declan was a shit show, she doesn’t ever acknowledge that he put her in a bad situation, where she felt uncomfortable. She made this excuse and many others for the behavior, but never addressed it as a legitimate problem.

We. Cannot. Have. Narrators. We. Like. And. Want. To. Root. For. Contributing. To. Rape. Culture.

This makes me crazy.