THE CEMETERY BOYS by Heather Brewer

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 6.15.56 PMWhen Stephen’s dad says they’re moving, Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Population: 814.

Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he meets punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. With Cara, he feels safe and understood—and yeah, okay, she’s totally hot. In Devon and his group, he sees a chance at making real friends. Only, as the summer presses on, and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…”

The Cemetery Boys is different from what I usually read, but when I read the synopsis (and saw the pretty cover), I couldn’t resist picking it up.

The story is dark and mysterious, and these effects are emphasized well in the initial setup of the book. It has all the perfect ingredients for a spooky story: a small, quiet town where everybody knows everybody and nobody ever leaves, a mysterious tale from the town’s past that everyone seems to believe, and a few mentally unstable parents with chilling messages. Each time a character is introduced, you can almost feel the mysterious tension surrounding them through Brewer’s words. Each resident of Spencer seems to have their own unique story of the town and its history, which creates a puzzle-like effect in which things seem to fall into place. The experience is entirely immersing and leaves you feeling like you’re in the room with the characters, trying to solve the mystery.

What I loved about this story is that, as I said, it had all the right ingredients for a dark and creepy story, but it also manages to pull them all together in a way that makes sense and keeps the reader interested. Not only do the characters seem to come alive on the page, but the setting descriptions really make you feel what it’s like to live in Spencer. In their small town, kids hang out at the “playground,” which is really the local cemetery, which makes for a few interesting scenes.

When Stephen meets his first friends, a girl named Cara (who may be more than a friend) and her dark, brooding twin brother, they don’t hesitate to share their own creepy Spencer story of a friend who drowned in a refrigerator. Their story sets up the background of the town and the history of the bad things that happen there, even before Stephen discovers the real threat of Spencer—a threat that might put him in more danger than he knows.

The story is full of suspense and betrayal at every turn of the page, and by the end you’ll want to reread the story just to see what clues you missed the first time around. It was surprising and exciting, and a reading experience that was very different for me, since I’m not one to read a lot of creepy mystery stories. I’m definitely glad I picked this one up, because I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This is a very quick read at less than 300 pages, so if you are looking for something short and suspenseful, I would recommend The Cemetery Boys.

4.5 Stars

(PS I’m also planning to read The Blood Between Us by the same author, so if you have read it let me know what you thought!)

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Also, be sure to add me on goodreads if you want to see what I’m currently reading!

Happy reading!

Bailey

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door

“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

I went into A Short History of the Girl Next Door having almost no idea what it was about, but high expectations based on the buzz around this book. I just assumed, naturally, that it was about a girl next door and subsequently, a love story. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it’s not your everyday run-of-the-mill teenage romance where, despite all obstacles, the main characters figure things out in the end and kiss passionately before proceeding to their happy ending.

Those things only happen in Matt’s head. One of the things I loved most about this story was that it was full of clichés, but they appeared mostly in Matt’s thoughts, and sarcastically at that. Matt resents the “overdramatic movie director in his head” who controls his thoughts and fills his mind with hopelessly theatrical scenes.

Matt is in love with his best friend, and in typical movie fashion, Tabby is oblivious to those feelings and opts to date a popular senior guy instead, and Matt is crushed. That storyline itself didn’t bother me—though it is a little overused in contemporary fiction—but I found it difficult to empathize with Matt’s love for Tabby, as her character is the most underdeveloped in the whole story. I felt like the only thing the reader really knows about her is that she has red hair and likes Nerds, and two boys love her. Her and Matt’s backstory was enough to make the story cute, but it sometimes felt like a story about a boy who is in love with a cardboard cutout of a girl rather than an actual, three-dimensional human.

When I started this book and realized it was about basketball, my hope that I would like it faded away almost instantly. I don’t mind basketball itself or occasional mentions of sports in books, but I tend to stay away from stories where sports are the main focus of the plot. It tends to breed characters that have no depth beyond the stereotypical dedicated athlete, but I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case with Matt. Even though basketball is one of the most important things to him, and he is especially good at it for only a freshman in high school, the development of his character is more centered around his humor and his relationships than simply one of his hobbies.

The story is full of shocking twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but I can’t say more than that without ruining the story. I’m happy I had no inkling of the direction the story would turn in as I read because it made the rollercoaster ride that is this book that much more enjoyable.

Overall, this story isn’t what I expected it to be. Where I thought I’d find another love story like every other in the world of young adult fiction, I found a story that embraces clichés while giving them a new twist. The humor and sarcasm dripping on every page kept my interest, and this was one of those stories that remind me why I love to read. Jared Reck did a great job crafting this story, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read full of humor and emotion.

4 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

IMG_6846“Astrid Krieger lives in a rocket ship prototype in the backyard of her parents’ estate. Her recent expulsion from the elite Bristol Academy has won her a unique punishment: She’ll have to attend public school for the very first time…”

Firecracker was definitely an impulse buy, I’m-at-Half-Price-Books-and-the-cover-is-pretty-so-I-have-to-buy-it type of thing, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this story. I was interested by the idea of a comedy about a girl who lives in a rocket ship (a rocket ship which is, unfortunately, rather absent from the story), and I thought it would be something different to try out.

I went into Firecracker with low expectations, and they weren’t surpassed by much. The story was funny, and there were even a few parts that made me laugh, but the overall plot was scattered and seemed to be thrown together at the last minute. This would usually be something that would put me off completely to a book, but I’m going a little easier on this one because it was more of a light-hearted, funny read than something you’re supposed to really get something out of.

Even though this book wasn’t very powerful or life-changing in any way, that’s not to say it didn’t carry a few lessons within it. However, the lessons that are obvious in the text are pretty much as cliché as it gets. For example, spoiled rich girl who believes she is above everyone else thinks, “But maybe I was not the only person in the world who was more complicated than everyone assumes.” (And then, just after, goes back to acting exactly the same as before).

One thing about this story that I thought really stood out was Astrid’s confidence. Sure, she definitely errs more on the side of arrogance, but I still think it’s unique to have a main character who is self-assured and can recognize her good qualities rather than one whose main conflict is not believing she’s beautiful. Astrid may have a stuck-up attitude, but I think readers can learn from her independence and the way that she only has herself, but she has found a way to be happy about that.

Also, this story is unique because Astrid is not looking for love. There are a few boys that care about her, and sometimes she even reciprocates those feelings, but she is not dependent on anyone else for even a minute in the story. She doesn’t need love to be happy, and that is an important quality and one that is not often portrayed in young adult books.

Overall, the story was very enjoyable (though I was hoping for more about the rocket ship…) and I would recommend it as a lighthearted story if you ever need a laugh. It is a very quick read—I finished it in just a few hours without difficulty—and the entertainment value of the story outweighs the parts where it lacks in any real substance. David Iserson did a nice job in creating a funny story for readers to enjoy, and I’m glad I picked this one up.

3 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey

 

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green

IMG_6717A few days ago, John Green released his fifth solo novel: Turtles All the Way Down, starring Aza Holmes, an awkward girl with a dead father and crippling anxiety.

Based on Green’s reputation from his previous four novels, I had my expectations set high for his newest publication, and it fell a bit short.

Turtles All the Way Down begins when Aza Holmes, known affectionately as “Holmesy” by her best friend and partner in crime, Daisy, hears news of a $100,000 reward being offered to anyone with information about the whereabouts of billionaire Russell Pickett. She and Pickett’s son, Davis, knew each other briefly from a camp for children who lost a parent, and upon being reunited they hit it off almost immediately.

Of course, in typical John Green fashion, their romance has more than a few obstacles, the most prominent of which being Aza’s own mind. She struggles with anxiety, giving her uncontrollable “thought spirals” and inescapable fear of contracting a disease known as C. diff.

By experiencing this story through Aza’s head, Green allows the reader a rare glimpse of the thought process of a teenager struggling with anxiety and other mental illness, and highlights the inescapability of these invasive thoughts. Aza’s anxiety gets in the way of her friendships, her relationship, and even her ability to do most mundane tasks.

Once Holmesy is reunited with Davis, the story’s focus strays from the mystery of finding his father, and becomes more of a minor subplot compared to the events of their romance and Aza’s thoughts. I expected there would be more regarding the enigma of his father’s disappearance, but where the story lacks an abundance of crime-solving excitement, it makes up for in heartwarming romance and valuable life lessons.

The title Turtles All the Way Down refers to the idea that the Earth is flat and resting on the back of a giant turtle, who is standing on the back of a giant turtle, and so on: it’s turtles all the way down. The reference brings up questions of the existence of God, which is never directly mentioned in the book, but contemplation of the meaning of life is hardly new of John Green’s writing. His intended message with this title is left up to the interpretation of the reader, but it certainly bears some relation to mental illness and the “thought spirals” that Aza experiences.

Turtles All the Way Down is a short, easy read with a good bit of power. The characters are interesting but not very relatable, and are basically the same as those in every other John Green novel. Overall, the story has its ups and downs, but I do believe it has earned its spot alongside John Green’s other novels.

5 stars