Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions
Author: Bonnie Pipkin
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen’s decision to end an unwanted pregnancy

“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing début follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.


Reading Aftercare Instructions was a bit of a weird experience for me. I entered a Goodreads giveaway for it without having read the blurb. I know that’s a little weird, but I do it sometimes. When I won and received the book, I still didn’t read the blurb. So when I started reading it, I had no idea what I was in store for. Aftercare Instructions was a really sad story. It wasn’t a bawling my eyes out sad, but more of a depressing sad.

Aftercare Instructions, as the blurb statesis about an almost eighteen-year-old girl who finds herself in the tough position of having an abortion. Gen knows having one is the right decision for herself and her boyfriend, Peter. But when Gen walks out into the waiting room after the procedure and finds Peter gone, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

I’m going to jump right into my impression of Peter. I don’t care what his reasons for leaving Gen at the clinic by herself were, they weren’t good enough. No one should have to go through what Gen did, and then be left to suffer alone. I hated Peter and wished someone would have kicked the crap out of that kid. For someone who was supposed to be so good, he was pretty horrible. I understand his reasoning and beliefs, but Gen deserved better.

As for Gen, I understood her emotions and rationale. I didn’t always agree with the decisions she was making, but I didn’t fault her for them. She made a very tough, adult decision and the ramifications of it hurt. Gen had every right to be as broken as she was. She had every right to do anything she could to feel better.

One truly great thing about Aftercare Instructions was the bond between friends. Gen had a few people on her side that were willing to do everything they could to make sure Gen was in a safe emotional and physical state. They showed up when she wasn’t expecting and took charge. I applaud the author for showing how friends can support each other when a character can’t reach for a parent.

Another really great thing about this book was the way the title, chapter headings, chapters and story all meshed together. Obviously, the title Aftercare Instructions refers to the guidelines Gen needed to follow after her abortion. Each chapter is headed with one of those instructions. That instruction fit what Gen was going through physically and emotionally at the time. By the end of the book, we can see the way all of these instructions and Gen’s actions led to her moment(s) of healing. This was genius. I also really enjoyed the way the author used a play script as the method of delivering Gen and Peter’s past. That was so unique and cool.

Aftercare Instructions is an important book. Never before have I read a young adult novel that so honestly deals with the topic of abortion. Not only does it cover the emotional aspects of having one, but it details the physical. I’m not just talking what happens the moment of the procedure, but also in the week to come. It’s not romanticized. It’s not over and done. This is a good thing. It gives teenagers (and adults) down and dirty look at life after. I think that’s important. It gives girls/women who have gone through it a book they can identify with. Maybe it will give someone who might be making a similar decision peace or make them re-examine the decision they’re making. I don’t know. Like I said, I think it’s an important book.

I do have to admit I had some problems rating Aftercare Instructions — no matter how important I thought it was. I almost didn’t give it a rating at all. How do you rate a book that’s written so well, but wasn’t a fun experience? Honestly, this book depressed the hell out of me and made me so angry at Peter. Those aren’t fun emotions. I ended up giving it 4 stars because I think it deserves to be read.

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?


I’m going to admit something very crazy. I had never read a book by Morgan Matson before Since You’ve Been Gone. I don’t have any good excuses. Since You’ve Been Gone has been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. I’m just happy I finally read it.

Since You’ve Been Gone is a coming of age novel about finding yourself. Emily has lived in her best friend Sloane’s shadow for the past two years. That’s been fine with Emily. She was more than happy to be the sidekick. But when Sloane suddenly disappears at the beginning of summer break, Emily’s distraught. Not only is she concerned about and missing Sloane, she’s suddenly all alone. The only thing Emily has left of Sloane is a random and scandalous list of things Sloane wants her to do. As Emily begins to work on completing the list, she find herself making friends with a guy from school, Frank Porter. Frank surprisingly offers to help Emily complete her list. As the summer goes on, Emily discovers more about herself and the world around her.

My love for Since You’ve Been Gone wasn’t immediate. To be honest, Emily really annoyed me at the beginning of the book. Her continued whining over Sloane and her absence drove me nuts. I know it was because I hadn’t gotten to know her before Sloane’s disappearance, but it grated on me for a bit. It wasn’t until she started working on the list and all of the supporting characters started showing up that I started to fall in love with the story.

Once I got past the beginning, I absolutely loved Since You’ve Been Gone. I was surprised to see a lot of my younger self in Emily. I, too, had a friend whose shadow I was content to live under in my school days. I empathized with Emily’s discomfort when she had to figure out how to be without Sloane, and make new friends. I can remember going through that and how tough it was. But, just like Emily, once I had been through it I was a stronger me. I loved the way Morgan Matson portrayed Emily’s growth as a person throughout this story.

Another thing I loved about this story were the other characters. Every one of them was so vivid and entertaining. I loved Collins and his absurdity. Frank was my favorite, though. His friendship with Emily was really sweet. He was a stand up guy. I loved their running program and the playlists they shared.

Since You’ve Been Gone may not have started strong, but it definitely ended that way. It had a great message and was beautifully written. It’s a book that I would highly recommend to teenagers (and adults!). I loved it.

Review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex & Eliza: A Love Story
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnum’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.


I haven’t seen Hamilton. I don’t know much about Alexander Hamilton. What I do know is that I loved this take on his relationship with Elizabeth Schuyler.

I’m not one immediately pulled in by historical fiction. It usually takes me a while to get into the time period, but Alex and Eliza captured my attention from the start. It was beautifully written and completely enchanting. It may have been based in the past, but the writing felt fresh and new.

Everything about the characters made me want to know more about their story. Eliza was a strong, somewhat outspoken young woman of her time. The way she stood up for her beliefs was inspirational. Alex wasn’t quite the war hero he wanted to be, but his book smarts were impressive, as was the way he was infatuated with Eliza. I loved how Alex & Eliza began with their first meeting and impressions of each other, and then ended with their marriage. I’m not sure how much of Melissa de la Cruz’s account was real and how much she crafted, but the relationship felt like it naturally progressed. All of the little bits of drama were fun and important to the story.

Eliza and Alex weren’t the only stars of this story. I absolutely loved Eliza’s sisters. They had such strong personalities of their own. Their stories seemed just as important as Eliza and Alex’s. If Melissa de la Cruz were to write their stories, I would be quick to read them!

Alex & Eliza was a truly delightful read. It was a captivating historical love story that all readers are sure to enjoy.

Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?


I put off reading By Your Side for a while because I had read some reviews that weren’t all together positive about it. I didn’t want to tarnish my view of Kasie West’s outstanding writing, so I didn’t immediately pick this one up. I’m really sorry I did that. I should have had faith in West. I ended up really enjoying By Your Side for many reasons.

I do have to admit that By Your Side started out a little rough for me. I loved the idea of the characters being stuck in the library and forced to work together. My problem was that it took me a long time to connect to either character. Both seemed a little abrasive at first. It wasn’t until they started revealing their true selves that I began to connect with them.

Autumn had everything going for her. She had a group of amazing, popular friends and a close family. The guy she had been crushing on for years, Jeff, was interested in her. The only thing standing in her way of happiness is a closely guarded secret she hides from the world. Once I got to know Autumn’s secret I could completely identify with her. I understood why she kept her secret, but I felt so badly about how that affected her.

Dax wasn’t as lucky as Autumn. He, too, kept secrets. Dax would rather have avoided people than admit what his life was like. Despite his tough exterior, he was a sweet guy. He put himself on the line to help others. I loved how his friendship with Autumn developed and slowly turned into something more. I loved how he stood by Autumn. I also loved they way they ended up supporting each other.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my favorite part of this story wasn’t the library. It was what came after. The second half of this story was unbelievably good and completely made me forget those awkward library moments.

Overall, I loved By Your Side. Kasie West once again wove a beautiful coming of age story.

Review: The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said
Author: Sara Biren
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.


The Last Thing You Said is a coming of novel about two young people dealing with the grief of losing someone close to them. Lucy’s life changed the moment she lost her best friend, Trixie. She no longer has the brave best friend by her side to give her courage. Not only did she lose Trixie, though. She also lost Trixie’s brother, Ben.

Ben can’t forgive himself for what he couldn’t do the day Trixie died. His grief has caused him to push away the people he loved the most. One of those people is his sister’s best friend, Lucy. He can’t stop thinking about Lucy, but he knows there’s nothing he can do to make up for the way he’s acted.

After a year of carefully avoiding each other, Ben and Trixie are forced to see each other at their summer jobs. Despite the pain of the past year, neither can stop thinking about what could have been.

The Last Thing You Said broke my heart over and over again. It did it slowly, throughout the entire book. The pain each character felt crushed me and made me yearn for better times for Lucy and Ben. Their pain was so raw. I wanted to lock them in a room and force them to talk to each other.

Ben was a tough character to like. I wanted to give him a good shake! The way he treated Lucy and everyone around him was frustrating. I hated how he became dependent on alcohol to numb his pain. His way of coping hurt more than it helped, and it was painful to read. I wanted him to dig himself out of the hole he was creating.

I loved Lucy, but she made me so sad. I remember what it was like to have my heart-broken and I empathized with her pain. She knew the way he treated her was horrible and she shouldn’t want to be with him anymore, but she couldn’t stop her feelings for him. It was painful to feel her discomfort every time she saw Ben. I liked that Lucy tried hard to move on, even if the way she did it wasn’t the best.

No matter how painful The Last Thing You Said was to read at times, I still loved it. Ben frustrated the heck out of me and Lucy made me want to cry, but I couldn’t put the book down. I loved it. It was so beautifully written and filled with emotion. Even when I hated something a character was doing, I loved them. I wanted to see them overcome their problems and be happy.

I can’t believe this is Sara Biren’s debut novel. Reading The Last Thing You Said felt like reading a book from a seasoned author. It felt so real and raw. I’m incredibly excited to see what comes next from her.

Review: Iluminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae
Series: The Illuminae Files _01
Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


Umm….My mind is pretty much blown from reading this book. Excuse me as I try to make any sense in this review. It’s probably going to be one big ramble!

Illuminae was pure genius. Everything about it was amazing. I loved the way the story was presented. The format was so very smart. It made the story fast-paced and easy to become engaged in. I credit the format for making me, a non science fiction fan, a lover of this book. Well, the format and the characters.

I absolutely loved Kady and Ethan. I was amazed at how well I got to know them and how well developed their characters were despite Illuminae not being told directly from their point of views. Their communications were probably my favorite in the entire book. I couldn’t help root for them. I also loved every supporting character I got a glimpse of throughout this tale.

Honestly, I have no clue what else to say. Illuminae had been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for over a year. I’m pretty mad that I let it sit all this time. It is totally worth any and all hype it’s received. Don’t be like me and wait any longer to read this book. Push it up to the top of your TBR list now.

Now, excuse me while I go purchase Gemina.

Review: Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

Lost Stars
Author: Lisa Selin Davis
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Note: I won a copy of this book from Rockstar Book Tours.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Before her older sister, Ginny, died, Carrie was a science nerd, obsessively tracking her beloved Vira comet. But now that Ginny is gone, sixteen-year-old Carrie finds herself within the orbit of Ginny’s friends, a close-knit group of seniors who skip school, obsess over bands (not science), and party hard.

Fed up with Carrie’s behavior, her father enrolls her in a summer work camp at a local state park. Carrie actually likes the days spent in nature. And when she meets Dean, a guy who likes the real Carrie—astrophysics obsessions and all—she starts to get to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.


Lost Stars is a story about a young woman learning to accept the cards life has dealt her.

Nothing is as it should be in Carrie’s life. Her sister’s dead, her mom’s MIA, and her dad is just plain mean. All that Carrie has left to make her world a decent place are her sister’s friends. They’ve taken her under their wings, and been there when she needed them. Those same friends have helped Carrie discover ways to avoid dealing with her sister’s death. But those ways now have Carrie stuck in a summer work program. It’s not Carrie’s ideal summer, but things start to look brighter when Carrie meets her new neighbor, Dean.

Carrie was one of those characters I wanted to love, but didn’t. I couldn’t connect with her. She acted immature, and her attitude sucked. I understood the way she dealt with her life, but her attitude made her unlikable. I couldn’t see a spark of anything that made me like her until the very end. Not that she didn’t have any good qualities. I loved how smart and into science she was. I wish I would have experienced a more happy Carrie with her focus on that.

I liked Dean and the little bit of mystery behind his character. His acceptance of Carrie from the beginning was really cool. I loved what he brought to the story and the push his presence gave her. I do kind of wish it hadn’t taken a boy to start Carrie in the right direction, though.

What I loved most about Lost Stars was the ability to see the growth Carrie made throughout the story. This book was truly about a girl who lost her way and found it once she was willing to look beyond herself to realize not everything was about her. It’s an important life lesson for young adults to learn, and I liked how it was presented in this story. It’s sure to resonate with many readers.