It's a Wonderful DeathIt’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Author: Sarah Schmitt
Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Year of Publication: 2015

Main Character: RJ (2/5)—this girl is a spoiled brat who only has a few shining moments of humanity. Too bad it takes death to bring out the best her, and only then because she’s angry.
Secondary Characters: The secondary characters were enjoyable enough, but very one-dimensional. The only ones that were developed were Madeline and Daniel.
Pacing: It takes about over one hundred pages for her to even go back in time to the moments she has to fix. Up until then, the whole book is just banter and arguing between ethereal pious beings. The moments she relives go by quickly before the angels of the afterlife resume their bickering again.
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: There was a heck of a lot left out. The portion where RJ actually gets to relive a few moments of her life (AKA the premise of the entire book) makes up a relatively small portion.
Resolution: I can’t even say how annoyed I am by how this book ended. Had I liked RJ or the story more, it would have really upset me.

The Good: At least RJ does exhibit some personal growth during the moments she revisits. If not for those moments, I may not have finished this book. I enjoyed a few of the characters, mainly Madeline, Daniel, and a couple of the angels. It was lighthearted, despite the subject, and was good for a few laughs.

The Not So Good: I can break this entire book down into about four events. The first hundred pages consist of her arriving in heaven and causing an unprecedented upheaval with her diva fit. The next handful of chapters consists of real plot in which RJ appears to learn the difference between right and wrong. Then we’re right back to an obnoxious court case. **Spoiler Alert** Then RJ spends a few chapters being dropped back into her old life for a total of one day. **End Spoiler Alert**Seventy percent of this book is just banter and arguing between fictionalized versions of religious figures.

When I read about some of the things RJ had done, I could understand perfectly why hell was an option for her. Some of the things she did, while not illegal, were definitely immoral. If I had to read one more time about how RJ wasn’t “the person [she was] meant to be,” I was seriously going to chuck this book at the wall. To top off the circus that was this storyline, the justification for RJ’s return to her life rests on her influence on someone who will eventually cure cancer. Really? There is literally nothing more clichéd or less cool than using the cure for a terrible disease as a plot point. And did I mention how terribly disappointing the ending was?

Overall Impression: This book was a misguided attempt to satirize the proceedings of the afterlife. In actuality, it was equal parts ridiculous and boring.

Would I recommend it? I wouldn’t really recommend this one if you’re looking for a meaningful, serious story. It would, however, be a perfect waiting room read if you’re in need of distraction.

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Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Pivot Point by Kasie West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Kasie West
Genre: Paranormal YA
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of Publication: 2013

Main Character: Addie (4/5)—For once, YA fiction has provided the world with a well-rounded heroine, complete with strength, courage, and compassion. She even thinks before she acts—a former given for characters in YA that is now so rare it’s remarkable.
Secondary Characters: For the most part, you’ll like the ones you’re supposed to like and hate the ones you’re supposed to hate. The only one who gave me pause was Laila. She’s a bit selfish and causes more problems than she solves, but she doesn’t mean any harm.
Pacing: With short chapters alternating between her two possible futures, this book compels you to keep reading.
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: While the synopsis was completely accurate, the book was more interesting than the publisher made it sound (also rare). The crime Addie’s father is investigating is one of the central plotlines, and I wish that had been clearer from the summary.
Resolution: I was a little upset by the life Addie chose, but I would have made the same choice for the same reasons. The last few pages will reassure you that not all hope is lost and then set you up for the sequel, Split Second.

The Good: When I saw what Addie’s choices were for her future, I thought for sure that one path would outshine the other. And since the chapters alternate between each life, I also assumed that I would be stuck pushing through boring chapters to get back to the good ones. Thankfully, none of those things happened. Both lives were equally interesting, especially because they kept to the same timeline and often showed the same events from different perspectives. The intersections between the two lives are remarkable. As the story winds down, the stakes get higher and Addie is faced with a decision much more difficult than she bargained for. All I can say is that you’ll close the cover wondering just how much of an impact you have on each little thing around you.

The Not So Good: I suppose there were a few things about this book that I didn’t like. Truthfully, I wasn’t a huge fan of the football injury plotline or the criminal case. What I enjoyed about this book had a lot less to do with the literal plot and more with how the book was composed. I also wasn’t crazy about Addie’s mother or Laila. Neither of them seemed like they truly cared about Addie. Her mother only talked to her to yell at her and all Laila cared about was guys.

Overall Impression: This is the type of book teens should be reading. In a market teeming with novels written solely to tackle heavy social issues, this one is a breath of fresh air. The lessons inside aren’t just relevant to one group or even one age—they’re timeless and universal.

Would I recommend it? You bet I would!

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Hotel for the Lost

Hotel for the LostHotel for the Lost by Suzanne Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Author: Susanne Young
Genre: Supernatural YA
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of Publication: 2015

Main Character: Audrey (3/5)—Audrey was a very average narrator. The most tangible thing about her was her range of emotions. She had a lot of misplaced angst. I would like to think that without the grief she perpetually grappled with, Audrey would have been more focused on and more successful in discovering the secrets of the Ruby sooner.
Secondary Characters: I found myself getting annoyed with Audrey’s family. Her brother was a bit too much of a know-it-all control freak for my taste. Her aloof and unsympathetic father severely lacked parenting skills and I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder the whole time. No wonder she missed her mother so much—her father was hardly a stable source of anything but frustration.
Pacing: The pacing of this book was about average.
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: What you see is what you get with this one. There’s not a lie to be had in the whole summary.
Resolution: The resolution was not at all what I expected and I found myself scratching my head as to why it turned out the way it did. It wasn’t necessarily a poor choice—just not what I was looking for.

The Good: From the second they arrived at the Ruby, the hotel’s swanky ambiance leapt off the page and enveloped me in the most bizarre combination of anticipation, apprehension, and intrigue. The setting was ripe for a mystery and I found myself drawn in eagerly at the beginning. I really liked some of the secondary characters and found them more relatable than any of the Casellas (Audrey’s family). The staff’s relationships weren’t all clear cut and perfect, which made them all more realistic. They were probably the most genuine part of the novel.

The Not So Good: This book, while imaginative in plot, ended up following every classic move in the most unexciting way possible. The only thing I didn’t anticipate was the decision Audrey would make once she figured it all out, and that was only because I was disappointed in her choice. Maybe what she chose would make sense to other readers, but I’m not big on throwing away my life for no good reason. I also have to be blunt and say that Young’s feeble attempts to explain the mystery of the Ruby only bred confusion in me. I wish she hadn’t tried to rationalize the supernatural elements. It was too far of a stretch for me. After all, the draw of the supernatural is its unpredictable, inexplicable nature.

I feel kind of insensitive for saying it, but the subplot about Audrey’s grief didn’t contribute anything to the plotline. This could just as easily have been about a normal family road trip and the plot would have been more focused for it. By the end of the novel, I wanted to reach through the pages and strangle Audrey for how clueless she was; the evidence was all around her, but her oblivion and ceaseless mourning interspersed with her boy obsession prevented her from noticing the neon signs. Had Young focused on the mystery of the Ruby rather than a bunch of completely irrelevant flashbacks, this story would have had a more meaningful plot.

Overall Impression: There was a great buildup of mystery, but I have to be honest and say I totally saw it all coming early on. As far as some of the key elements she included, Young’s choices left me scratching my head, as I know that the right ones could have made this novel popular.

Would I recommend it? I wouldn’t discourage anyone from picking up this book. I firmly believe that it could be more than satisfying for anyone who wants a little lighthearted mystery on their bookshelf.

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Every Day

Every Day (Every Day, #1)Every Day by David Levithan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5/5 Stars
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Year of Publication: 2012

Main Character: A (4/5)—I appreciated that A had such a strong sense of right and wrong, even though there were no real consequences for A on a personal level. A was determined to do the right thing and not disrupt anyone’s life, even if it might have been tempting. I did get annoyed with A sometimes, but it was never extreme.
Secondary Characters: The only real secondary character was Rhiannon. I didn’t like her much at first, but I decided to give her a chance anyway. Still, I honestly just didn’t see much in her by the end of the book.
Pacing: The pacing of this book is inherently strange because of the way it is written. But since each day is very different for A, and the people whose lives he occupies are very different, it wasn’t disruptive to the plot. Regardless, this was a very quick read for me.
Accuracy of Publisher’s Synopsis: This synopsis was accurate. It was more of a synopsis of the first chapter than anything, though.
Resolution: I’m disappointed and a little put off by the ending. The answers aren’t necessarily there, but I can clearly see the groundwork for new beginnings. I understand A’s decisions, even though mine would have been a little different.

The Good: Levithan made sure that A encountered a very diverse group of people, so it was great to read about so many different lives and situations in one novel. This was such an original concept, and the exploration of it brought up a lot of thought-provoking questions. A has lived completely alone without another soul being aware of his/her existence. The plot forces A to make personal connections for the first time ever and then navigate the ins and outs of managing relationships and conflicts.

The Not So Good: I have two things about this book that I didn’t like: Rhiannon and A’s sense of self. We’ll start with Rhiannon. She was filled with morals, but remained so inconsistent about what was and wasn’t right that I couldn’t stand her half the time. It’s not okay for A to judge Justin as being a jerk, but it’s perfectly okay for the way she treats A to be contingent upon the attractiveness of the body A is in that day. It’s not okay to invade someone’s body and spend their money to feed them, but it’s perfectly fine to invade someone’s body and use it for sexual activity that they can’t consent to. I don’t understand this girl’s “logic” and I don’t like her. I also can’t comprehend A’s lack of a concept of who they are. I can’t imagine a consciousness existing that is not asexual, but has no sense of gender. It was just confusing to me.

Overall Impression: Every Day was written based on a highly original concept that was executed in a dull, one-dimensional manner. I appreciate Levithan’s perspective and the character he created, but I feel that for such a thought-provoking concept, he did not explore it to its potential. The heavy presence of Rhiannon hinders A’s ability to fully explore the meaning of his/her existence and instead forces A to discover life and develop a self-concept through the scope of his interaction with her. Essentially, the book is more about A learning to make personal connections than the existential questions that inevitably arise from waking up in a different body and life every day. Levithan did not ponder the questions I wanted to explore, so I am left less than satiated.

Would I recommend it? I think this book is a great starting point for a teen looking to explore their identity, understand the world and people around them, and learn how their actions create a ripple effect.

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