CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

img_6809.jpgI try not to pick favorite books; to me, that seems a lot like picking a favorite child. But contrary to the previous statement, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is my new favorite book.

Carry On is only the second Rainbow Rowell novel I’ve read, the first being Eleanor and Park. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t very memorable for me, so I never went on to read any of her others until now.

That being said, I haven’t read Fangirl yet, but I will definitely seek it out after reading this book. The story of Carry On is based on a story mentioned in Fangirl, and while it would have been relevant  background information to have when going into this book, I’m glad I’m reading them in the order that I am. It was interesting for me to go into Carry On knowing nothing about it, and therefore having nothing to bias my enjoyment of the story.

Rowell’s writing goes back and forth a lot between character perspectives, which is usually something that bothers me (and reminds me a little too much of actual fanfiction), but I felt it worked well for the book. I loved the way the perspective changed between Simon and Baz, allowing a look into both of their feelings. (I especially loved Baz, he might be my favorite character of all time.)

The story bears a lot of similarities to Harry Potter as far as the basic idea goes: an orphan boy who doesn’t know he is magic is thrown into a world where he is their “Chosen One,” and attends a boarding school where he takes magical classes. While this may seem like the same storyline, I was surprised and delighted to find that once you get past the basic setup the similarities end and Carry On takes on its own unique identity.

The characters in this story are unique and easy to fall in love with (did I mention that I love Baz?). Simon and Baz start off as roommates who are constantly dreaming of ways to kill each other, but the way their relationship evolves and their true feelings are revealed is unlike any other story I’ve ever read. The emotions were real and beautiful, and I’m probably going to read this book about ten more time just for Simon and Baz.

The only criticism I have of this book is that their should have been more. More pages, more chapters, more books. There is nothing I want more than a sequel to this book (Rainbow Rowell if you are reading this, please). I’ve read a few things that make a second book sound like a possibility, but I haven’t been able to find anything confirmed, so all there’s left to do is hope.

Overall, Carry On was one of the sweetest, funniest, and most heartwarming books I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend this book to absolutely anyone. Don’t ask questions, just read it.

5 Stars

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

Happy reading!

Bailey

 

PASSENGER/WAYFARER by Alexandra Bracken

51NEHrJQBCL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_“In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.”

The Passenger duology follows the format of a lot of adventure novels: Etta discovers she is part of a world she has never heard of, which her mother spent her life trying to keep her away from. But after she is kidnapped and sent through a portal to another time, she discovers that she may be more important to this other world than she knows.

In the meantime, she meets Nicholas, a boy born far from her time who earned his freedom from slavery and now spends his days on the sea under the supervision of his captain, who knows of time travel but is not a traveler himself. Nicholas takes interest in Etta as a job, but he quickly starts to care for her much more than that.

Etta and Nicholas’s relationship is one of the most compelling of any novel I’ve ever read. The connection between them can be felt at full force through Bracken’s words, and the development of their relationship feels natural and unrushed, despite the short time period in which they get to know each other.

Passenger and Wayfarer are definitely high up on my list of recommended books, as well as anything written by Alexandra Bracken. The Darkest Minds series is perfectly crafted, and the relationship between Liam and Ruby leaves you on the edge of your seat just as much as Nick and Etta. Bracken’s talent for writing is obvious: her words are elegant and they always seem to fit, which is one thing that makes the Passenger duology stand out.

Personally, I didn’t feel that this duology passed up The Darkest Minds in terms of plot, and I was a little disappointed. They are great books in their own regard, but sometimes the story felt as if it was dragging a little bit, which I never felt when reading TDM.

Bracken’s other stories aside, Passenger and Wayfarer have very intricate storylines, with several different timelines and settings woven in, and the difficult plot was pulled off very nicely. There were the usual plot holes of course, which are almost unavoidable when time travel is on the table, but I didn’t feel as though that took away from the story in any way.

Bracken’s characters almost seem to come off of the page: they are very human and multidimensional, which can be a difficult thing to pull off for many writers. I think character development was a strong point in these books that made them stand out among other YA stories.

I’m not going to lie, these books definitely made me cry, which is just another reason I know they were good. I really felt connected to the characters throughout the story, and I enjoyed it even when I wished the pace would pick up a bit.

The elegance of the word choice mixed with the lessons the story has to offer were a great match. I especially love the quote: “But we are, all of us, also wayfarers on a greater journey, this one without end, each of us searching for the answers to the unspoken questions of our hearts. Take comfort, as I have, in knowing that, while we must travel it alone, this journey rewards goodness, and will prove that the things that are denied to us in life will never create a cage for our souls.

Overall, Passenger and Wayfarer were well-crafted novels, and they definitely have a space in my heart among my favorites.

5 stars

 

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie ThomasStarr Carter is caught between two worlds: Garden Heights, where she grew up, and Williamson, the prestigious private school where her parents send her to protect her from her own community.

Starr learns from a young age to stay quiet around the police, but nothing her dad taught her could prepare her for the night her old friend Khalil becomes a victim of their hate. On their way home from a party they are pulled over, and despite the fact that they were both unarmed and innocent, the officer shoots and kills Khalil while Starr watches from the passenger seat.

The Hate U Give is a beautifully crafted and compelling story that puts the reader in the shoes of this 16-year-old girl as she deals with the aftermath of her friend’s murder. I felt that the conversational tone of the novel helped to form a connection between the reader and the character, and the injustices she endures leave you feeling just as helpless as anyone would in that situation.

The story shines a new light on the already trending issue of racial discrimination in today’s age. We hear stories on the news constantly of police shootings and #blacklivesmatter, but it’s rare for someone outside of the action to really understand the feelings that come along with it.

Starr was the only witness to the events besides the police officers present, and she is caught in the unsavory situation of my-word-against-yours, which clearly puts her at a disadvantage in the trial process. Even after it is discovered that Khalil in fact possessed no weapons when he was shot, the media uses the fact that he allegedly sold drugs to justify his murder.

Starr is overwhelmed with processing with her friend’s death, and in the meantime she is forced to assume a whole different identity at school. She attends a private school called Williamson, surrounded by kids that come from money and live in high-scale neighborhoods that Garden Heights can’t compare with. She feels out of place at school despite her group of friends, and feels the need to censor herself around them to avoid being perceived as “ghetto.”

I found the opinions of her classmates to be very powerful to the meaning of the story, because they only farther outline the helplessness Starr is feeling. She puts up with a few racist comments here and there from her friend Haley, but things start to change when the conversation turns to Khalil and Starr begins to learn how to stand up for herself.

Throughout the course of the novel, Starr makes a transformation from a girl who is taught to keep her mouth shut to a girl who leads a revolution. Overall, The Hate U Give is an empowering and inspiring reading experience, and I believe it is important for people of every background to read this book and understand Thomas’s message in her writing.

5 stars