Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mini Reviews #29

This week I wrote three (not so short) reviews of YA contemporary novels that have very special protagonists with immensely emotional stories. EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU by Moriah McStay, BETTER THAN PERFECT by Melissa Kantor and THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand are three fabulous reads that I can all recommend!

Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay

"One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.
   And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?"(Goodreads)
   EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is one fabulous debut! The story is told from the perspectives of Fiona, the girl with the scars, and Fi, the girl without the scars. What a smart idea to explore the numerous possibilities of two alternate lives. How one accident never happening would change the life of one girl, influence her self-confidence, her perception and her relationships. I loved that Fiona was the girl we got to met first. She is the broken one, but she is also the original and she really deserves to tell her story.  
   It is set in their eleventh grade, twelfth grade and college freshman year. This arrangement was very attractive because it allows us to get a feel for their stories without getting lost in too many details while allowing a glimpse at the future. 
   This debut also shines with its two beautiful love stories! I have massive crushes on Trent and Jackson. Fi and Fiona's love stories are messy, romantic, tragic. They are perfect with all their imperfections!
   With EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU Moriah McStay wrote a twofold emotional story about Fiona, the scarred girl who has to make brave decisions and Fi, the perfectly intact girl who has to cope with an incredible loss and romantic complications of the best friend kind. I loved them both!

4,5/5 ****/* EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU - A sensible read about one very special girl.

Moriah McStay tells EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU with an incredibly gentle and heart-warming finesse. The moment Moriah McStay decided to make her debut novel about two alternate lives for a girl with a face deformity, she won this reader as a big fan of her writing. I can't wait to find out what her next project will be.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publishing Date: March 17th 2015
Length: 352 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, friendship, college
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  
Author's Homepage

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

"Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.
   But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn't all it’s cracked up to be?"(Goodreads)
   BETTER THAN PERFECT was a great read, because it represents themes, problems and inner conflicts many young adults can relate to.
   Juliet's family has massive problems caused by the divorce of her parents. Her mother tried to kill herself and failed. Now Juliet has to deal with her shock and grief. Juliet has to find a way to trust her father again and to let him be a part of her life, too. Her relationship to her parents is delicate and it takes a lot of work and trust to forge a new bond, to make their love stronger than before. I was emotionally involved in their family drama from the first pages. 
  Her family's instability is suddenly causing problems in other parts of her life, too. She isn't sure of going to Harvard anymore, that she wants to be together forever with her boyfriend Jason, that she wants to spend her days studying only. BETTER THAN PERFECT is about a teenager whose life is turned upside down with one tragic event and learning to find out what she really wants in life. The emotional changes, small and big, her decisions and feelings were absolutely understandable, making Juliet an incorruptible protagonist readers will root for. Melissa Kantor told her story with great sensitivity and skill.
   Juliet's decision to join Declan's band turns her controlled world around. The band scores with their Irish charm. I loved the passionate, care-free feel music added to Juliet's story. Just like her feelings for Declan did. Juliet and Declan's story isn't your typical YA love story, but something different to get lost in.

4/5 **** BETTER THAN PERFECT - A sensitive and optimistic story about family, new love and a new awareness of life! 

Juliet was such a congenial protagonist because even though she seems to have everything, we fast learn that she is vulnerable and indecisive, too. Her life isn't as perfect as everyone thinks. I love stories like BETTER THAN PERFECT which have great character development to offer. Melissa Kantor's newest book was an altogether comforting and empowering read.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: February 17th 2015
Length: 336 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, romance, family, friendship, divorce, music
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  
Author's Homepage

"The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment. Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be. As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything. Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on."(Goodreads)
   THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is a contemplative and moving YA contemporary read by Cynthia Hand. From past reading experience with her UNEARTHLY series I knew that I could rely on Cynthia Hand's excellent writing. I knew her protagonist Lex would be one character worth getting to know.
   Only a few pages into Lex's story, I noticed that hers was the story of her brother, too. How Lex lives her life is strongly connected to the fact that she just lost her brother. So through Lex's perspetive we find out what kind of person Tyler was, why the love for his family wasn't enough to keep him alive. It wasn't at all easy for Lex and the reader to understand Tyler's suicide. So it takes some time for the story to reveal details and insights about his death. Who wouldn't understand that Lex is in shock and emotional disturbance?
   I was so glad that Lex still had her parents, Steven and friends who supported her. Despite her separation from Steven, he is still her anchor and someone she deeply cares about. Theirs is a very cautious and delicate love story, perfectly in tune with the story's overall spirit. 
   Because she can't deal with her feelings on her own Lex has to see someone. She writes down her thoughts about her brother and what hurtful and dark thoughts are occupying her mind. Sometimes the story markedly slowed down when Alexis had her therapy sessions or was writing about past memories. There isn't anything super exciting about Lex's story, anything that is overly surprising or nerve-wracking. This story's power lies more in the quiet and character-wise strong and moving moments.

4/5 **** THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE - A brave story about loss, recovery and, most important, love.

After BOUNDLESS, the last book in Cynthia Hand's UNEARTHLY series, readers definitely knew about her talent for delicate, sometimes teary and emotionally complex plots. I would describe THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE as a quiet read, more on the contemplative side. What deeply touched me was that Cynthia Hand can in some way relate to the story she wrote for Lex and her brother Tyler. She did a great job with her newest book!

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: February 10th 2015
Length: 400 pages
Keywords: YA, contemporary, tragedy, suicide, family, romance
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads Summary  
The Last Time We Say Goodbye Excerpt  
Author's Homepage


  1. I haven't read any of these, but they all sound pretty amazing :D I'm so glad you mostly loved all three books sweetie. <3 Yay! Thank you so much for sharing about them :) I might check them out someday ;p Cute covers too. (Better Than Perfect looks the best, I think, hih ;p)

  2. I love mini reviews. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed all of these. I'm hoping to pick up a copy The Last Time We Say Goodbye soon because I loved Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series and I've heard that this new one pulls on the heartstrings.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian