Books included in this post: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, East by Edith Pattou, & The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
Book Trigger/Content Warning: suicide & sexual assault
*This review will touch upon suicide*
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Young Adult • Contemporary
Version: Paperback (288 pages)
Publisher: Razorbill; 1st edition (June 14, 2011)
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
I decided to read this book after the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why EXPLODED this year. Everyone was talking about the TV show, AND the book was all over the blogosphere. Once I read the book description, I was very intrigued. I knew I wanted to watch the TV series, but wanted to read the book first.
While Thirteen Reasons Why had the potential to bring important issues to light, I feel like the author really missed the mark here. The overall theme of this book was such an important one: the smallest actions & words can affect others in big ways, HOWEVER I felt that the WAY that the author attempts to teach this lesson was problematic.
Instead of portraying suicide as the horrific occurrence it is and how suicide can deeply effect the loved ones of that person, it was almost portrayed as an acceptable resolution to Hannah’s problems. The aftermath of Hannah’s suicide is more about the kids/people included on the tapes and the parts they played in Hannah’s decision, but shouldn’t we also be focusing on effects of suicide on loved ones? Shouldn’t we be stressing here that suicide is NEVER the answer? This book came up way short by not focusing on the effects of suicide on family & friends. Where was Hannah’s family in this book?! Never in the book do we see what impact Hannah’s decision had on her family. Why did we not really see anyone devastated by Hannah’s loss? Instead we are shown a bunch of teens who are less concerned with Hannah’s death, and more so about their “secrets” getting out. While reading Thirteen Reasons Why I never felt like the book was emphasizing that suicide should never be an option, nor did I feel like the book ever gave alternative options or list resources that people who are having similar feelings can take advantage of.
Another big issue I had with Thirteen Reasons Why was Hannah’s character. In the book, Hannah comes off very vindictive & cruel which really rubbed me the wrong way. Instead, Hannah should have come across more heavy hearted, which would have had better effect. While I obviously sympathized with the situations Hannah had to endure, I also had a hard time connecting with her. It was almost if Hannah was enjoying making the tapes & inflicting the pain back onto those who caused her pain… The “eye for an eye” rational isn’t the right message to send in a YA book.
Viewing this book from a parent standpoint, I personally would not let my teenagers read this book. While it is good to bring more awareness to all of the issues this book brings up (bullying, sexual assault, rape, suicide), I would much rather my kids read a book that addresses these issues in a more sensitive and informative way.
Despite all the problems with this book, I hate to admit that it was a page turner. You want to find out what is on those tapes. You want to know why Hannah made the decision to take her own life… This is the problem. Suicide really shouldn’t be dramatized like this & used as a means of entertainment.
Author: Edith Pattou
Genre: Young Adult • Fantasy
Version: Paperback (528 pages)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 1, 2005)
Source: Borrowed (Library) & Purchased
Rose has always been different.
Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose’s birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home… but she can’t suppress Rose’s true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it– in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family– she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear’s broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart– and finds her purpose– and realizes her journey has only just begun.
I picked up East in preparation in attending the Ohioana Book Festival this year. You can read more about my experience here → Book Event: 2017 Ohioana Book Festival + Book Haul. Despite the fact that this was an “older” book published back in 2005, I decided to give it a go since it had really good ratings on Goodreads (4.14 star rating with 32,000+ ratings). I am so happy I was able to squeeze this one in before the festival, because it ended up being one of my favorite reads this year thus far!
Please do not the fact that this book is over 500 pages intimidate you. With multiple perspectives and short chapters, East was a quick read. This book feels very much like a fairy tale because it was inspired by the Norwegian fairytale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I am not familiar with this fairytale, so prior knowledge of it is not a requirement to enjoy East. This book is an epic journey full of adventure and challenges to overcome. So, an epic journey fairytale? Whatever it is, I loved it!
I really loved how Pattou wove this story together. At first I was a little apprehensive about all the different alternating POVs, but as the story goes we see that the different perspectives give us important insight into the bigger story.
I absolutely adored our lead heroine, Rose. She had many qualities that I admire in a character: tenacity, curiosity, a thirst for life, cleverness, and bravery. Oh yeah, and *highlight between arrows to view spoiler ⇒ Rose is the hero of this story and totally saves the prince instead of the other way around. ⇐ Let’s just say she is an awesome character that you will root for every step of the way.
Now, for all my romance lovers… if you need romance with steamy love scenes to make you swoon, this is probably not going to be the book for you. That being said, the romance included in this book was very subtle and felt very realistic. Let’s just say this is NOT an example of insta-love, nor is there any type of love triangle. Thank you Edith Pattou! Love isn’t always instant & intense, but sometimes it is confusing & gradual. The romance is definitely NOT the main focus of the book, which I always appreciate since I am not a big fan of books where the romance is the center of the plot.
Basically, this is my perfect YA book. No clichés or tropes. Lots of action & adventure. Realistic & subtle romance. Excellent storytelling. Strong female lead.
When I met the author back in April, she divulged to me that she is currently working on a sequel to East! The expected publication is set for sometime in 2018. I’ll give you three guesses as to what the title is going to be 🙂
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure stories, fairytales, and fairytale retellings.
Author: C.J. Redwine
Genre: Young Adult • Fanasy
Version: Audiobook (11hour 29min listening length)
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Source: Borrowed (Hoopla)
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.
This was another book I read in preparation for a book festival, this time being the SOKY book fest that I attended in April. C.J. Redwine was on the confirmed author list, and scheduled to be at the festival promoting the second book in her Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter. When I noticed that this book was available through Hoopla for audiobook download, I figured I would give it a go before the festival. Not going to lie, I had high hopes for this book because I am a sucker for books with any type of apple on the cover. #NoShame
The thing I liked the most about this book was how the author spun this retelling of Snow White. Good retellings, in my opinion, are really hard to achieve because there is a delicate balancing act between the original tale & the new story. Keep too closely to the original story, and readers will be bored, but stray too far and they will be outraged. I think the author did a good job staying true to the story while giving us some new elements: dragons and more magic.
You don’t go into battle because you’re sure of victory. You go into battle because it’s the right thing to do.
And yet. Despite the fact that I liked how the author spun this retelling, something felt off about this book. I think my biggest issue with this book was the fact I didn’t really connect to the characters. They felt a little lifeless to me. This isn’t to say they were unlikable, just a little bland. There were a few points in the plot which should have evoked certain emotional responses from me, but didn’t… I think if the author had slowed the plot down and focused a little more on character development, this would have helped me to form more of a connection to the characters.
Gabril’s voice was strong and sure. “I believe in you, and I’ve fought for you, because in a world full of people who crumble before an evil too terrifying to comprehend, you put up your fists and fight.”
If you are a fan of YA fantasy and/or fairytale retellings, then I would still recommend this book. The Shadow Queen was a solid read, but had I connected better with the characters, it could have been a great one. I think I will still continue on with the series to see if Redwine’s characterization is more developed in the second book.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below and let me know 🙂
14 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: YA Books (September 2017)”
Ia lso ahd issues with 13RW back when I read it years ago, I think I never liked Hannah and I hated whatt she did. Okay some of the people did horrible things, but others… they didn’t deserve to be blamed that way
I still really need to read East. I remember loving 13 reasons, but I read it many years ago and I think what I loved was that it was different from a lot of the YA I read. I think if i re-read it, I’d have a lot of issues. I have no intention of watching the show either and I’m wondering if it’s glamorising suicide.
Great reviews, Amanda! I haven’t read 13 Reasons Why, nor have I seen the netflix adaptation for it. I just know it won’t be a book or a tv show I could handle, and I have been hearing that the book had tons of issues, so I’m not really interested in reading it. IT was so interesting to read your point of view on it overall, though 🙂
I did not know about East, but it sounds like such a cool book! I really like the sound of the lead in this and suble romance, not taking over the whole plot? I love that just as well. Thank you for putting this on my radar! 🙂
Love the idea of minireviews! I read Thirteen Reasons Why quite some time ago and wasn’t as bothered by it, but I can 100% understand your view. Now I think back, I completely agree this book doesn’t show the right attitude towards suicide and Hannah’s views in general are counterproductive and could give the wrong idea to (already sensitive) teenagers.
It was hard to NOT see this book through a parent’s eyes. I just can’t recommend this book to young readers… It really doesn’t send the right message.
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You are completely right…
I have heard so many of the themes you talk about in regards to Thirteen Reasons Why popping up all over the place. I won’t even read it– suicide shouldn’t be portrayed this way. It’s so… well, there aren’t words for it. I noticed you didn’t even provide a star rating for this book– was that intentional?
YAY FOR EAST! I’ve heard so many great things about it. This is definitely on my TBR. Your review makes me think a bit about The Crystal Ribbon, but perhaps with a bit more magic in it?
So, is The Shadow Queen part of a series? I’m so confused. I thought it was stand alone! I completely understand where you are coming from about not connecting to the characters– do you think that’s part of the writing, or did the narrator play into that at all? I notice you didn’t mention them, and I find a bad narrator can make me dislike a book I would normally love!
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Yes, I intentionally left off a star rating for TRW. I think I may have gave it a 2-star rating on Goodreads? BUT I really should remove that. The more I thought about it, the more problems I saw.
You would LOVE East I think… The story is a little similar to The Crystal Ribbon in the fact that the characters are both on a quest/journey home! I really would love for you to give it a go.
The Shadow Queen is a part of a series, but the subsequent books in the series focus on different realms in the world, so new characters and new kingdoms. For the life of me, I cannot remember if this story is told in 1st or 3rd person… I know the story is told from multiple viewpoints: Lorelai, Kol, and the evil queen… I want to say this book was a third person – multiple viewpoint narration. I never really thought about if the narration was why I didn’t connect to the characters. I feel that in some books, the narration style is the clear problem, but in others it is not so obvious.
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Yes, I thought you did star-rate it on Goodreads, hence I asked. Plus it was weird for you. Why did you decide to leave TRW unstarred?
I have already requested East from the library! You have never led me astray.
No wonder I was so confused. Subsequent books focus on different realms, so new characters and new settings. It’s easy to not realize these books are related! And yes, I completely agree– sometimes it’s clear that narration is a problem, and other times it takes some reflection to get there. Will you keep reading the series?