Hold Still + Half Bad + The Rest of Us Just Live Here // Mini Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot more this month due to #TheReadingQuest challenge! For most of the summer, I spent a lot of time reading graphic novels and comics to combat my reading slump, but it seems like I’m finally getting out of that. Here are some of my recent YA reads. Let me know if you have read them or plan to read them!


 

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Hold Still // Nina LaCour

After really enjoying Everything Leads To You, I was super excited to find Hold Still in our university’s library. It’s Nina LaCour’s debut, but I haven’t seen many book bloggers talk about it (other than Loony Literate). I had to read this pretty quickly because the reading challenge started the next day, but I still enjoyed it!

Short Synopsis: Teenage girl works through her grief after her best friend commits suicide.

Format: hardback (library copy)

Overall Feeling: respect.
I’ve read quite a few YA books on suicide because I did a project on it for my YA undergrad class. I wish I had known about this book back then. I really wish I had known about it while I was still in high school, when it really would have resonated.

This book portrays grief in a real way. It does not glorify suicide, like other YA novels (looking at you, All the Bright Freaking Places). It does not turn into a let’s-solve-the-mystery-of-why-I-decided-to-die like Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s about a friend that loses a friend and the recovery process she goes through.

I have such high respect for the delicacy LaCour uses with this topic. If you’re looking for a YA book on grief, this is the one.

That said, it’s not a perfect book. There were scenes that definitely felt forced, and the tension between the MC and the photographer teacher went on for too long. I didn’t really love the inclusion of Ingrid’s diary, though it makes up a substantial part of the book. And a lot of the scenes/writing felt choppy. But the pros outweigh the cons, and I pretty much want to read every Nina LaCour book out there now. She has such range and depth.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


 

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Half Bad // Sally Green

I don’t know what convinced me to buy this whole trilogy before reading the first one, but I did, so that’s that. I decided to jump into the Half Bad for the first prompt in the reading challenge.

Short Synopsis: Magician born half White Witch, half Black Witch must escape persecution from the White Witch community as his powers begin to develop.

Format: hardback

Overall Feeling: #bored
This book was nearly 400 pages but could have easily been 200. It starts off with a great hook: our main character is being kept in a cage. Then it jumps back to explain how he ended up in the cage, which takes about 100 pages so that the White Witch vs. Black Witch society can be fleshed out. I was fine with all of that

But then it takes a more quest-like turn and our MC has to go through all these people to get to this one person who can help him. And I pretty much checked out at that point. It took about 200 pages of him going from place to place that could have easily been summarized in a paragraph or two.

HOWEVER. There is tremendous value in this book, but it lies deep with the implications of its society. Its themes explore the meaning of nature vs. nurture, and in a sense, how one may become something based on how they’re treated (actually pretty similar to the 2015 movie The Witch).

All of this can be summed up in its epigraph from Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

So while the plot was too bloated for me, I’m not sorry I read it. Will I continue to the other three? Maybe, but it’s not my top priority.

Rating: 3/5 stars


 

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here // Patrick Ness

This is my first Patrick Ness read! (I know. Where are my priorities?) I read it for the second prompt of the challenge, a book with a verb in its title.

Short Synopsis: Normal teenagers face normal problems as their city is attacked by abnormal beings.

Format: ebook (Kindle Paperwhite)

Overall Feeling: 80% love, 20% meh.
I should start off by saying that this book was not what I expected. I knew it was kind of an anti-Chosen-One story, but the cover makes it look like the entire high school is filled with superheroes, and the main characters are those that are normal (kind of like Sky High, I guess). But that’s not really it at all.

This story is anti-Chosen-One, but it’s not like the whole town is full of superheroes. Everyone is pretty much normal, except there’s some weird supernatural stuff going down. But the people who face the supernatural stuff—the “indie” kids—are in the background. Our main characters are facing things like graduation, unrequited love, jealousy, family issues, and mental illness.

I loved Patrick Ness’s style, I loved the humor, I loved how self-aware and meta the story was (much in the same vibe as Carry On), I loved Jared, I loved the way mental illness was portrayed. But I did not like the last 20% of the book. There were things about the end that fell flat for me, and the major “reveal” didn’t make any sense (though, to be fair, it was something that high schoolers would probably do).

Rating: 4/5 stars

–Emily
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Have you read any of these? If so, tell me what you thought!

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