I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Harper Collins on May 31st 2016
Format: ARC (272 pages) • Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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In a single night—graduation night—Thomas has to decide: Do what everyone has always expected of him? Or forge an entirely new path? Bryan Bliss’s absorbing examination of one boy struggling with expectations and realities will appeal to readers of Sara Zarr and Chris Crutcher.
Thomas is supposed to leave for the army in the morning. His father was Army. His brother, Jake, is Army—is a hero, even, with the medals to prove it. Everyone expects Thomas to follow in that fine tradition. But Jake came back from overseas a completely different person, and that has shaken Thomas’s certainty about his own future. And so when his long-estranged friend Mallory suggests one last night of adventure, Thomas takes her up on the distraction. Over the course of this single night, Thomas will lose, find, resolve, doubt, drive, explore, and leap off a bridge. He’ll also face the truth of his brother’s post-traumatic stress disorder and of his own courage. In Bryan Bliss’s deft hands, graduation night becomes a night to find yourself, find each other, find a path, and know that you always have a place—and people—to come back to.
I love books that take place in one night. The character just graduated or has one night left before college or is leaving for some reason, and they spend all night with their friends making memories. It’s just a fun plotline to me and definitely read-bait. This book definitely had that element. On the other hand, it had some military plotlines that don’t resonate with me as much. I loved one book involving PTSD and loved it, but read another with someone in the military and didn’t enjoy it very much at all. They can be hit or miss I guess but it’s just not a topic that interests me. So, you could say I went into this book with mixed expectations.
Thomas is shipping out the morning after graduation, to follow in his brother’s and father’s footsteps. It’s something he’s kind of always wanted to be a part of but also feels forced into because of the familial expectations. The story takes place the night of/after graduation and kicks off with him coming back into contact with his childhood best friend, Mallory. She has some complicated things happening on her end, and the two of them set off to complete some childhood missions. The book travels with them (and other friends, relatives, and new acquaintances) across town. Thomas is planning on running away by morning instead of shipping out because he doesn’t want to be “messed up” like his brother is now that he’s home from the war.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a spoiler or not, so be warned that the rest of this paragraph involves romance… I was disappointed that there wasn’t one. In hindsight, I don’t think the book really needed one, but at the same time… I expected one. Based on the premise and beginning of the book, I was REALLY hoping for my favorite trope: childhood best friend to romance. I just love reading about people coming back together and the “meant to be” feeling. Alas, there was no romance to be seen in this book.
I wanted more from the plot though, to be honest. There were some solid ~adventures~ throughout the night and I loved meeting some of the characters, but I just wanted MORE. I felt like I got to know the characters as well as you could (when reading about just one night of their lives).
I think my favorite part of the story was towards the end when the meet the other veterans in the Waffle House. It was great to see Jake connect with people again and share stories. Again, the military theme doesn’t usually hit me hard (except for watching surprise homecoming videos, good lord those killllll me!), but these moments did. I was happy about how all that went down.
Truthfully, I don’t think the book will leave much of a lasting impression on me. It read really quickly and was super easy to read. I really did enjoy it, but it’s not a huge stand-out for me. Part of this has to do with the ending, too. I told myself I NEEDED a non-ambiguous ending with this kind of story. View Spoiler »It ended up leaving quite a few loose ends. I want to know what’s going to happen next for Thomas and Mallory. Their stories felt unfinished. « Hide Spoiler Overall, a good book that I’m glad I read.
I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Harper Collins on June 14th 2016
Also by this author: The Night We Said Yes, Matt's Story (Novella)
Format: ARC (352 pages) • Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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There are a lot of things I didn’t like about this book, but I don’t think I can necessarily say that it’s a bad book. I don’t know if I read this with a chip on my shoulder or something – like I didn’t give it a fair shot. I was annoyed within the first chapter and that feeling was unshakeable throughout the book. I really am putting this one firmly in the middle of the road (technically, since 2.5 is half of 5). I’m tired of being nice and rounding up my ratings because I feel like I should have liked a book. Some highlights of things I enjoyed and didn’t…
From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.
Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where adoption was the main storyline. I used to be fascinated by this process and thought it would be fun to get inside someone’s head in this situation. Overall, a cool concept that did make me want to keep reading. More on that later…
Her main hobby and potential future college major/career was photography. I’ve always enjoyed it but have never been good at it, so that was pretty fun to read about for me. I liked what it added to the story for sure.
Some relatable friend / college feels
This book did make feel nostalgic for college a little bit. The parties and drinking and shenanigans on each floor of the dorm. So classic. I also think the friend feels about Treena were simultaneously realistic and annoying. She was extremely jealous about everything, but there was at least a reason for her to be that way. I could put myself in her shoes (as well as Treena’s) but just wish she spoke up. This is your BEST FRIEND that you love sooo much apparently; you can’t tell her how you feel at that point? For something that feels huge to you? Ugh.
The romance was fine. It didn’t make me swoon and I wouldn’t add them to my “ship so hard” Goodreads shelf. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I almost didn’t care about it. Essentially no feels. However, I did appreciate somewhat how it ended up. View Spoiler »Things were realistically left open-ended. She would be headed home and they’d keep in contact, but she had a smart attitude (for the first time in the whole book) about what their relationship could be. There were major hints she’d end up there for college, but nothing set in stone. This is not really an ending for the hardcore romantics out there because it wasn’t EXACTLY a HEA. « Hide Spoiler
Some of the other adoption stuff
It felt cheesy at times – every time she walked A N Y W H E R E on campus, she made comments about how her mom walked through the same area. I really, truly get it. It’s actually a huge deal and I think anyone would have those thoughts constantly. But it seems like the kind of thing that we wouldn’t see repeated every other page – just because this is a novel, not an actual stream of consciousness in someone’s head. Does that make any sense? I also thought it was unrealistic that she expected so much from her mother, especially based on what she already knew. She got pregnant at 18 and gave the baby up for adoption; she could be like ANYTHING! She could be mean, nice, smart, dumb, party-crazy, or a book nerd. I feel like in that situation you might get your hopes up about what the parent is like – of course! – but wouldn’t there be some level of realism? I don’t know. I think I’m being too harsh, but it’s just the impression I got and it frustrated me. I would think “cautious optimism” is the way to go in this situation. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have this search for birth parents go badly.
Writing style and dialogue
After reading Gibaldi’s debut, I was extremely excited for this one to see how they compared. I enjoyed her first book but it didn’t blow me away like I had hoped. This book honestly felt like it was written by a completely different author. The writing was weird. It felt awkward and forced – like it was trying way too hard. Every single chapter or chapter break ended with a cheesy metaphor. She was never just walking on a path, she was walking ~ to her future ~ or something like that. I get the idea of adding some extra meaning here and there, but it didn’t work. This was one of the biggest things that made me grumble with each page.
Maude, the main character
Ugh, Maude. Within the first page or two, she was already comparing herself to Celine: her hair, her photography skills, etc. Again, somewhat realistic. Everyone is jealous and self-conscious right? But Celine gave her no reason to feel inferior like that. They’re friends and have shared interests. I think the first chapter of self-doubt is supposed to show how much Maude grows by the end of the book. She “finds herself” and figures out who she wants to be, instead of comparing herself to others. It just felt really overdone and heavy-handed instead of like natural character development.
Like I mentioned before, some of the friend feels of jealousy were normal and expected. I hate when I dislike characters like this because it makes me feel mean. I was never a perfect teenager but I always had fun / did things my parents wouldn’t like if they found out. Maude was essentially a wet blanket. I know she’s used to Treena-with-strict-Indian-parents and instead she got college-Treena, but I don’t know. She went on and on about the Treena she knew, her BEST FRIEND EVER and NO ONE WILL EVER compare to her SO DON’T EVEN TRY IT, CELINE!!!!! She was incredibly possessive over her right off the bat and I knew I wasn’t going to like where things were headed.
Something stupid that bothered me? They told her about a building shaped like a penis and she didn’t think it was funny. I mean, come on. That’s classic. Loosen up!
When you roll your eyes and get annoyed with every page, you know it wasn’t really worth reading. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I’ll bother with Gibaldi’s future books. The first didn’t wow me too much and this one didn’t even come close. Overall, I generally liked the feels about adoption. That stuff kept me going while the college/friend stuff made me want to quit.