Ashes to Ashes, by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

burn for burn series

*I’m going to try not to put in any spoilers for any of the books in the series into this review, but there definitely won’t be any spoilers for the last book. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone*

I can not say enough nice things about the Burn for Burn trilogy, by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. But I’m going to try. These books are funny, quirky, romantic, thought-provoking, suspenseful, and heart breaking. The characters are relatable and grow throughout the series … some in ways that I promise no one could have imagined. The books deal with issues of race, social class, sexual assault, grief, bullying, and betrayal without being issue books. They also deal with boyfriends, best friends, fashion questions, lip gloss flavors, gossip, jealousy, and school dances without being frivolous. Ashes to Ashes is no exception.  Continue reading “Ashes to Ashes, by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian”

A Love Letter for TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, by Jenny Han

To-All-the-Boys-Ive-Loved-BeforeHigh school junior Lara Jean has never had a boyfriend, but she has been in love. She’s been in love with the cocky, popular boy who “stole” her first kiss, the boy from summer camp who saved a kid from drowning, the fashionable classmate who everyone thinks is gay, and even the family friend who dated her older sister. She’s been in love with them, but she’s never told them. Instead she’s written them love letters to get over her feelings and stored them, unsent, in a hatbox her mother gave her before she died. When the love letters mysteriously are sent to all the boys, she has to deal with all the emotions she’d thought she’d sealed away in five little envelopes.

This is my love letter for TO ALL THE BOYS I”VE LOVED BEFORE, and to Jenny Han for writing it. Unlike Lara Jean I’m writing it to share my love of the novel not to get over it. Continue reading “A Love Letter for TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, by Jenny Han”

Burn for Burn: A Pretty Delightful Revenge Story

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan VivianI was not a big fan of The Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy, by Jenny Han. In fact, I think I kind of hated it. So it might have been surprising that I suggested to Alee that we read Jenny Han’s newest book Burn for Burn, co-written by Siobhan Vivian. What changed my mind, you ask?

Okay, no one asked, but I will answer anyways. What really changed my mind was seeing the two of them discuss their friendship, their book, and their childhoods in person at the National Book Festival last fall. The only word I can use to describe them is delightful. Jenny Han wore knee socks. Both talked about the most embarrassing thing someone ever did to them growing up (and they used the perpetrators full names!). Plus apparently while writing the book Han and Vivian would take on personas from the book and fight with each other. Combined with the prevalent theme of bullying within the narrative I was pretty instantly intrigued.

Continue reading “Burn for Burn: A Pretty Delightful Revenge Story”

National Book Festival 2012

I went to the National Book Festival (the largest book festival in the country!) this weekend. Two days of good weather, good speakers, and a huge crowd of people who also love books: what could be better or more affirming?

I saw many YA authors we’ve reviewed here on the blog, and some “grown up” authors. Everyone was fantastic. I started strong with John Green, who was probably my favorite speaker. The most interesting thing he said (aside from a hilarious story of how he met his wife) was that the relationship between readers and writers is one of mutual generosity. Side note: when I tweeted this, the Library of Congress retweeted me. I’m just going to say, that I think that officially makes me successful at life, or at least at the internet.

Next I saw Robert Caro, with his unparalleled knowledge of Nixon. Followed by Tayari Jones. Tayari was my wild card visit, but she had an infectious sense of humor and was the best dressed author of the festival. She talked about how often when girls like books and writing, people don’t view them as being smart or studious they think of them as being nice, because “you can’t get pregnant in a library.”

After Tayari, I saw Jeffrey Eugenides, a big literary heavy weight. I was so impressed that when I got home, I read The Marriage Plot (finishing last night). If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should. Who knew contemporary fiction for adults could be so compelling?

My last author of the day was David Levithan, another writer we’ve reviewed. It was interesting to hear about his writing process and love of writing with other authors. Apparently he just writes one chapter and sends it off, then the collaborating author writes a chapter and sends it back. It sounds like it would be a fun experiment, but I can’t believe so many beloved books have been born this way.

Sunday was a little lower key. I’m sorry to admit it, but the authors didn’t intrigue me as much. The weather was better, but the crowds were much smaller than on Saturday. I heard some poetry from Nikky Finney, heard about Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian’s new book series (it deals with bullying and sounds much more intrigueing than the Summer I Turned Pretty series) and listened to Hope Larson, Anita Silvey, and Leonard Marcus discuss the impact of Madeleine L’Engle and A Wrinkle in Time.

Overall, it was a super fun weekend. Some lessons for next year:

  1.  If I can only choose one day to go, I’m going on Saturday.
  2. They ran out of books to buy almost immediately. Next year I’m buying any books I want signed from Amazon and bringing them with me.
  3. I’m bringing an extra water bottle and a picnic lunch. No more $11 hamburgers for me!

There should be more videos of the author talks here in the very near future. I sincerely suggest you check a few of them out. My intention was to share all the funny quips and writing advice, these authors shared with me, but I’m afraid instead this read a bit like a book report. Was anyone else there this weekend? If so share some of your favorite speakers!

Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy: Physics Failure

I’m coming up with a theory that what separates a fine young adult romance from a great one is mainly a matter of mass and velocity.  And when it comes to physics the Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy, by Jenny Han, fell short in both respects. The basic structure made enough sense: basic love triangle, with a twist that both male leads are brothers.

The books follow Isabel “Belly” (gross!) and her mother’s best friend’s sons Conrad and Jeremiah through three books: The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer. The two families spend every summer together at the beach. Until the summer before Belly’s sixteenth year, the boys and her older brother leave her out. Then she gets breasts and everything changes.

When it comes to mass, the weight assigned to events within the trilogy makes no sense. There is a way in high school, and thus in YA novels, that having a crush can be assigned greater importance to school, friends, and severe family drama. Finding this balance in a way that is believable is a challenge particularly important in a romance. This is Han’s major fail. Literally life-changing decisions are treated with less consideration then what to wear to a bonfire. The fact that Belly vacillates between brothers is either over-dramatized or trivialized.

You might, by now, be able to tell that 9th grade physics was the lowest grade I got in my life…but in terms of velocity the series also disappoints. In all three books 90% of the action happens in the final 10% of the novel. The ends are not foreshadowed. All of a sudden: people are declaring their love, breaking each other’s hearts, and at times doing both at the same time.

Where Han does succeed is in creating tension. Maybe it was just me, but I was definitely excited to keep reading to find out which brother Belly would end up with. If you are looking for a new contemporary young adult series, then go ahead and read these books. I probably would have liked, but not loved, these books when I was in high school.  I would definitely recommend Stephanie Perkins or Megan McCafferty instead.

P.S. I’ve heard rumors of a movie version, but can’t confirm. Has anyone heard anything?