Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
3.5/5 stars
Released 4/15/2014
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)
Goodreads I Barnes & Noble


Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps a hatbox full of love letters under her bed. These letters are the ones she writes when she wants to get over a crush. Now, with her sister having moved to Scotland for college Lara Jean's world is changing fast - she feels an obligation to take care of her father and younger sister, and has to deal with the break up of her sister's "perfect" relationship and the feeling that her sister is pushing her away. When she discovers that, on top of everything else, her letters have been mailed, she knows her life is never going to be the same.


I started reading this book before it came out on Pulseit. Then I got to the end of the excerpt - which is when I realized it was an excerpt and not a full book. So as soon as it came in at the library, I checked it out for myself. And returned it the next day because I finished it that night.

Until this book came in, I was in a definite reading slump - I couldn't focus on anything for more than a short period of time because everything I was reading had a slow build and just felt like I had to work so hard to get through it. This one pulled me out of the slump - it's light and quick to read, although it does delve into family dynamics and the bond the sisters share is pretty incredible (though I don't have real life sisters, so I'm not sure how realistic it is). The focus definitely seems to be more on Lara Jean's relationships with her family. The book sets the foundation for exploring other relationships, but doesn't really go too deep into those (we'll probably see more next year when the sequel comes out). It's cute and I'll probably read it again before reading the sequel.

Now, I want to address some of the commentary on Lara Jean that I've seen in other reviews. Spoilers may happen below, so proceed with caution.

Let's take a look at Lara Jean:

1. Her mother died when she was pretty young, meaning she's been raised by her father (who is incredibly busy because he's (I think) an OB/GYN). 

2. But basically her older sister has been managing the house and family. Her older sister is two years older than her.

3. Rather than actually dealing with feelings about boys, she writes a letter and sticks it in a box and is "over" said feelings.

Given these circumstances, anyone who thinks Lara Jean as a character should have had more life experiences or a more mature and worldly voice is crazy. Her mother figure is a sister barely older than her and her father doesn't seem to be around enough to really know what's going on with his daughters. Lara Jean doesn't actually date, so she she hasn't really grown into her young adult self. Her knowledge of relationships comes from her observations of her sister's relationship (which it turns out aren't as reliable as she thinks, seeing as she's convinced that her sister hasn't had sex when she has).

Now, I'm not saying that in order to grow up and have a mature voice one has to have sex or be in a relationship - but pretty much all aspects of Lara Jean's life seem to be incredibly sheltered. The fact that she hasn't realized that feelings don't just go away because you write them down and stick them in a box is evidence of her naivety and immaturity. It's realistic that she sounds young and innocent because of the circumstances.

To be fair, that voice is not something everyone will want to read. So if you don't want to read it because of that, that's fine. But I don't like reading reviews saying it's unrealistic or unbelievable because it's not. I've known the sixteen-year-olds who sound like that because I was one, and I work with all sorts of teens. What I haven't known is the sixteen-year-olds that sound older than thirty that we sometimes see in YA.

All in all, if an innocent romantic of a main character is going to bother you, you probably shouldn't read this one. But it's cute and a quick read so otherwise, I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fairy Tales Revisited

Yesterday, I finally put up a real display in the second set of window shelves in the Teen Zone. These window shelves are problematic, because they can be hard to get to (there are giant bean bags all along that wall that sometimes end up in front of the windows) and mostly fade into the background because they're set back into the wall.

I knew going into this that the display would either need to be eye-catching or be based around something the teens are always looking for (the other window display is of YA books that have a Lexile number above 1000). I opted to go with eye-catching because it meant I would get to be a little crafty.

So, here it is:

Not the greatest picture, but I used a cell phone camera - what can you do? I know you can't tell because it's far away (I'll post some close ups and a better full view when I can get some decent pictures!), but down on the bottom self is a "glass" slipper I made out of tape and plastic wrap (here's the tutorial I watched to figure it out) beside a white tissue paper rose. Up on the top shelf is another tissue paper rose, along with the "Fairy Tales Revisited" sign I made, and around the corner is a twisted paper beanstalk (inspired by something I saw on a blog I don't remember awhile ago - if I find it again, I'll post the link) that stands out nicely against the red of the wall.

In case you haven't seen it, Epic Reads has a wonderful chart full of all sorts of YA Retellings, including fairy tales. That's where I started finding titles (although there are lots that aren't on there as well).

Hopefully, this will get those window shelves noticed!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

My first order of YA books just made it to the shelves today (minus the extra copy of The Fault in Our Stars that immediately went to the hold shelf – seriously, I've been in this job for almost two months and I've never seen either of the other two copies) so, in honor of that, my first post on this blog will be a review of one of those new books.

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
4/5 stars
Released 2/11/2014

I received a digital ARC of The Tyrant’s Daughter via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“My brother is the King of Nowhere

This is how Laila begins her story – the story of a girl who grew up the daughter of a king of a country and, following her father’s death, finds herself in America with her mother and brother, where her family’s former position is seen in a different light. American high school is a strange place that seems worlds away from Laila’s highly censored and sheltered past, and it seems that in addition to dealing with these differences, Laila must also look out for her mother (who is constantly seeking ways to restore their family to their former position) and her brother (who is too young to quite understand their situation).


Laila narrates her own story, which prevents the author from getting bogged down by trying to tell everything. Instead, the reader is shown only what Laila sees, thinks, feels, and assumes. It also gives the unique perspective that makes readers re-evaluate how they see the world.

A lot of what we read or hear on the news regarding the Middle East is negative, and people have a tendency to apply these negatives to the people of a country as a whole rather than to individuals. This book does a wonderful job of illustrating that blanket statements about a culture are rarely, if ever, true – but it goes beyond that and points out that, in spite of the way her father ruled the country, some did not see him as the villain the rest of the world saw. Laila is a character that people can relate to, regardless of the differences between the culture she grew up in and the one we live in, and because of that, readers are forced to accept that her father – a horrible dictator from our perspective – might not be 100% pure evil the way we like to imagine dictators. It’s important to have literature that points out that people are more complex than we tend to think.

Though the subject matter is loaded, this book is a fairly quick read. I finished it within a couple days (a huge accomplishment with my crazy schedule!) in e-book format (which usually will take me longer because I can’t read on a screen as long as I can from a book). Readers of all levels will appreciate this unique perspective on a difficult to understand topic.