Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

My first Sarah Dessen book, and it was amazing and heart-wrenching and soooo good! It made me want to break out into Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, because this book was definitely killing me in the gentlest of manners… I loved the interwoven elements of self, family, and romance, and this is the type of YA contemporary romance that everyone needs a bit of in their lives.Read More »

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Review: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen


Flipped

Flipped is like the cutest thing ever! This was one of my very first chick lits, and I was enticed by the minimalistic cover (which is actually really clever, once you read through the book!). The flipped symmetry of the narratives and the push-pull romance are really well done, and this story shows you that good books don’t necessarily need to be lengthy; a simplistic yet deep story that’s funny and endearing.
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Review: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Fat Cat

Fat Cat is full of cute science geeks, caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and great best friends. I loved the concept at first, started doubting myself half way through the book, but ended up still enjoying the book at the end. I have to say that I like Cat’s relationships with her friends and family a lot more than her romantic relationships, but that’s not a bad thing!
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Review: Gemini by Carol Cassella

Gemini

Gemini is a bittersweet blend of mystery and realistic fiction. Cassella deftly delves into two poignant tales that converge in the end to a truth that salvages both stories as well as both protagonists. Although I question parts of the plot and feel a bit unsatisfied with the ending, Gemini effectively evokes memories of childhood and the troubles of adulthood, tying together the past and present in a neat little package.

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Review: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Seating ArrangementsI haven’t felt this bitter about a book in a while. I’m actually wavering between liking Seating Arrangements and thinking that it’s OK, because the characters in this book aren’t likable at all, and yet they touched me in some way. Seating Arrangements cracked open its numerous characters with a hammer to expose their many flaws, secrets, and impure motives. Shipstead’s vivid descriptions bring to mind the smell of sea salt in the air, a quaint cottage on an island, and eroding perfection, and overall, Seating Arrangements left me disappointed and skeptical of human nature.Read More »

Review: This Is Not an Accident by April Wilder

This Is Not an AccidentI don’t understand this book. I went into this book knowing that the characters were going to be weird, but I overestimated my weirdness tolerance. This Is Not an Accident is a creative spin on reality, OR a realistic look at the lives we live, depending on how well you can relate to the characters. I couldn’t relate to the characters at all, and to me, Wilder’s characters and storylines seem to teeter between insanity and, well, insanity. I didn’t get the humor at all, and the stories were too short to make any sense out of them. (I guess that’s why they’re called short stories? Ha.)Read More »

Review: The Vow by Jessica Martinez

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There’s going to be a lot of ranting in this review, because as an international student, I can relate to a lot of the immigration issues that Jessica Martinez (Canadian!) brings up in The Vow. I found myself inevitably drowning in the book, and even though I kind of knew how the story would end, it didn’t make The Vow any less emotional to read. Martinez captured the feelings of a heartwrenching friendship while tackling serious issues such as illegal immigration, race discrimination, and rape.

Title: The Vow
Author: Jessica Martinez
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Category: (Young Adult) Contemporary / Realistic Fiction
Source: Pulseit

 
Mo and Annie have been best friends since they were ten, and even though everyone thinks they’re more than friends, they’re not. It’s just that they’re both different from everyone else in the small town of Elizabethtown, Kentucky: Mo’s family is from Jordan, and in this small redneck town, everyone secretly thinks he’s an Iraqi terrorist; Annie is fragile, and has been since her older sister disappeared, leaving her family broken and her life in shambles. And they’re so not more than friends because Mo has been crushing on that super hot cheerleader at school (whom he has no chances with), while Annie starts to take notice of a cute guy at her new summer job. But Mo and Annie will always have each other – or so they thought, until Mo’s father loses his job and informs Mo that they’re moving back to Jordan. Mo’s upset because he’s losing his chances of playing basketball, going to Harvard, and staying with Annie, but Annie comes up with a not-so-brilliant plan: they can get married, and Mo can then legally stay in the U.S.! Woohoo! Why didn’t anyone else think of that? (BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL.) But because Mo and Annie really love each other (in the friends kind of way), they struggle through the disapproval of their parents and friends. However, as they get drawn deeper into the reality of their situation, Mo starts to understand the importance of family, while Annie comes to terms with what happened to her sister and falls deeper for Reed, the summer-job-guy.

Mo is kind of like the best guy friend ever. He’s outspoken, sarcastic, and knows how Annie’s feeling without her having to tell him. He also makes the best science-to-life analogy I’ve read to date:

Chemically speaking, if my life was a solvent, and misery the solute, saturation point has been reached.

Annie, on the other hand, constantly asks Mo how he feels. She’s always there for him, and she can be really stubborn when she wants something (like getting married to Mo so that he can stay). When she’s with Mo, they really click: they act immature together the way only best friends can act, and their conversations are always so fun and witty. Even after they get married and Annie confesses that she’s seeing Reed, Mo and Annie are still… well, Mo-and-Annie.

“So when do I get to meet him?” I ask.

“Never.”

“What? How is that even possible? As your husband, I demand to meet the dude you’re making out with.”

“And as your wife, I demand you let it go. […]”

Aside from the humor, The Vow also touches on some very serious issues, and there are layers upon layers of injustice that just makes me want to give up on society, because the situations are very realistic. From the discrimination that Mo faces, to the truth behind the disappearance of Annie’s sister and the family issues that arise from immigrating to a new country or from tragedies within a family, these are situations that someone somewhere faces everyday. And I really think that Annie’s mother put it best:

“You’re not fine. And adults don’t ride skateboards to the grocery store. You’re kids playing some kind of grown-up married-person game, and at some point you’re going to realize there’s a lot more to marriage than skating around and whatever else you two do together.”

It’s not easy being kids (or “young adults”, since Mo is seventeen and Annie is eighteen) in a grown-up world, because they don’t want to confront reality, and they think anything is possible. Mo and Annie get totally shut down as they realize that everything and everyone is against them. (Cue my inevitable drowning… womp womp.) It also doesn’t help that the new guy that Annie falls for, Reed, is a chef-in-training and paints as a hobby. Obviously Mo can’t win against someone who can make good food! Arghh, the inevitable!

But anyway, I want to touch on the immigration aspect of the story, since that’s what The Vow is built on, and it’s also what I could relate to the most. Moving to a new place or a new country is hard, and it really depressed me to see Mo, who has finally been “Americanized” after being bullied when he first came to the U.S., faced with the possibility of having to move back to Jordan, where he’d be scorned for being more American than he should be. This cultural inability to fit in during immigration is an ongoing issue, even with the increasing “melting pot” and “mixing bowl” views. It’s different from fitting in socially because it entails a lot of logistics – the paperwork, customs, and the whole shebang. (And I’m bitter about this because I just ran into a paperwork issue earlier this week. Hrrmph.)

Martinez was able to spin all these different elements into The Vow, and I applaud her for making each issue just as important as the next. Her artful wordplay in linking the alternating chapters of Mo and Annie’s first-person narratives also made me giddy because it was just so good! But this kind of story is too realistic for me, and I feel depressed and angry at the world after reading it; I usually like books where I can escape from reality (yeah, I don’t know why I read realistic fiction either). The ending was obvious to me, but if it’s not obvious for you, here’s a spoiler gif in case you want to peek.

If you want something happy and light, The Vow is definitely not it. But if you’re in the mood to sit down for some serious feels about The Strongest Friendship Ever and Why Being International Sucks, I would encourage you to give The Vow a go.

If you’ve read The Vow, what did you think about it? If you haven’t, do you plan on reading it? If it were you, would you go to such extremes to help your best friend?

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