Now a Major Motion Picture: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthyIris Thorne is dreading the movie adaptation of her grandmother’s Elementia books. Hailed as a feminist response to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings the Elementia books are seen as classic fantasy and have the diehard fans to prove it. The fandom even has a name: Thornians.

The movie adaptation is only going to make that worse. Iris and her family already had to deal with a crazy fan trying to abduct her younger brother, Ryder. She can’t imagine what will happen with a bigger fan base. Nothing good, that much is obvious.

Iris hopes that spending the summer in Ireland observing the production with Ryder will give her the perfect chance to sabotage the production. After all, if the movie never gets made no one will be able to watch it.

When Iris’s sabotage schemes are thwarted by dreamy leading actor Eamon and the crew’s infectious enthusiasm she starts to wonder if the one thing she has been dreading might also be the one thing she desperately needs in Now a Major Motion Picture (2018) by Cori McCarthy.

Find it on Bookshop.

Cori McCarthy’s latest standalone novel is a charming contemporary romance. Iris’s narration is razor sharp as she tries very hard to remain an outsider on the set even while the cast and crew do their best to befriend her.

Iris remembers the trauma her family has suffered because of the Elementia books and she is weary to let herself embrace that legacy even as she starts to learn more about its feminist themes and the director’s efforts to stay true to that in the adaptation. Iris is very much a fish out of water among the cast and crew and this is a charming story about how she starts to find her place there–and maybe even in her own family.

Now a Major Motion Picture has humor, a snarky narrator, and a swoony romance all set in a picturesque locale–in other words, all the makings of a perfect summer read.

Possible Pairings: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Eric Hicks, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

In a Perfect World: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“I want you to have the best life. Even if I’m not a part of it.”

cover art for In a Perfect World by Trish DollerCaroline Kelly has her summer figured out. She’s ready to spend it working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio sights with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp to prepare to (hopefully) become her team’s captain in the fall.

Then Caroline’s mom gets a job offer that changes everything.

Now Caroline is joining her mother (and her father whenever he can get away from his fishing boat back home) for the summer and her senior year in Cairo, Egypt where she has been hired to open an eye clinic.

Caroline has no idea what to expect in Cairo beyond the tourist images she’s seen and the preparation she and her mother have done to make sure their clothes are respectful of the city’s Muslim culture. All she really knows is that she is going to feel isolated and homesick.

But almost as soon as she arrives, Caroline realizes that her new home is going to defy expectations with a rich and surprising culture, astonishing sights, and a boy unlike anyone she ever would have met back home. Moving to Cairo makes Caroline’s world bigger, but it’s going to take time to figure if out if Adam Elhadad can have a lasting place in it in In a Perfect World (2017) by Trish Doller.

Trish Doller’s latest standalone contemporary is a contemplative examination of family, love, and privilege.

Caroline is reluctant to go to Egypt even as she realizes it’s a unique circumstance and an incredibly rare opportunity. She realistically and thoughtfully handles her conflicted feelings as her opinions of both Cairo and her hometown begin to change. While she and Adam have a ton of chemistry (and are oh so cute together) the romance is subtly handled and again addresses the uneven dynamics in their friendship as they begin to grow closer (not to mention the fact that Adam is a devout Muslim and Caroline is not).

Doller’s thorough and vivid descriptions offer a gorgeous introduction to Cairo which are sure to inspire a healthy dose of wanderlust in readers seeking new destinations. In a Perfect World is an excellent and optimistic novel sure to leave you smiling. Even as I write this review I am smiling as I remember this lovely little story. I can’t wait for you all to read this and finish it with a little more hope and tolerance in yours hearts. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali, Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, Just One Day by Gayle Foreman, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Wayfarer: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Wayfarer is the conclusion to Bracken’s Passenger duology. It contains major spoilers for book one. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with Passenger*

“All of us have had to come to terms with the fact that our loyalty is to time itself. It’s our inheritance, our nation, our history.”

“We can live in the past, but we cannot dwell there.”

Wayfarer by Alexandra BrackenEtta’s preparations for her debut as a concert violinist feel distant in the wake of revelations that she and her mother are part of a long line of time travelers who have drawn Etta into the center of a dangerous battle for power.

Etta has gone around the world and through time searching for a coveted astrolabe that can control and manipulate the timeline itself. She knows the astrolabe has to be destroyed. But she also knows she will need it herself if she hopes to save her mother.

Orphaned by a disastrous change to the timeline, Etta wakes up alone in another place and time separated from Nicholas, her partner throughout this journey. The future that she knows no longer exists. In this new timeline Etta finds unexpected help from Julian Ironwood–Cyrus’s heir, long presumed dead–and an unlikely ally from Etta’s own past.

Nicholas could do nothing to keep Etta with him when she was Orphaned. Now he and Sophia are following every lead–every passage–that they can to find the astrolabe and Etta. Their uneasy alliance is tested by the pursuers far too close behind and the mercenary who may be trying to help Nicholas and Sophia–or stop them.

Separated by time itself Nicholas and Etta will have to face impossible odds, familiar enemies, and a dangerous new power if they hope to reunite and keep the timeline safe in Wayfarer (2017) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Wayfarer is the conclusion to Bracken’s latest duology which begins with Passenger. It contains major spoilers for book one. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning.

Wayfarer picks up shortly after the dramatic conclusion of Passenger. Etta is injured and alone after she is Orphaned while Nicholas is left behind in Nassau where he is forced to rely on Sophia’s knowledge of the passages to hopefully find Etta and the astrolabe before time runs out.

This novel once again alternates close third person narration between Etta and Nicholas (possibly with slightly more time given to Nicholas). Although they are separated at the start of the novel both Etta and Nicholas remain true to each other and confident in each other amidst rampant mistrust and doubts from their allies. The steadfastness of their belief in each other is heartening as almost everything else these characters hold true is thrown into doubt over the course of the story as all of the characters face difficult choices once the full threat of the astrolabe becomes clear.

Bracken expands the world of the travelers in Wayfarer with new characters (be sure to watch out for mercenary Li Min), and new backstory about the origins of the travelers and the four families. Sophia, happily, also plays a bigger role in this story after previously being an antagonist to both Nicholas and Etta. Sophia remains ambitious, angry, and delightfully unapologetic even as she begins to make new choices. The focus of this story also shifts from romance to relationships of a different sort as friendships, partnerships, and other alliances form.

One of the constant themes in this series is trust. In Passenger Etta and Nicholas have to learn how to trust each other and, to some extent, their abilities as travelers (albeit inexperienced ones). Wayfarer, meanwhile, finds both Etta and Nicholas having to form new bonds in order to survive. These changing relationships lend depth and substance to a story that is already rich with historical detail and fully developed characters.

Wayfarer is a brilliant novel about trust, choices, and time travel (of course) filled with romance, action, and more than a few memorable moments. This series is a great introduction to time travel and also ideal for fans of the sub-genre. The perfect conclusion to one of my favorite duologies. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Fable by Adrienne Young

*An advance copy of this title was sent by the publisher for review consideration*

Passenger: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The truly remarkable thing about your life is that you’re not bound to live it straight forward like the rest of us.”

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenAfter a devastating loss on the night of her latest violin performance, Etta Spencer finds herself torn away from the people she loves and even from her own time.

Nicholas Carter is centuries away and confident his dream of captaining his own ship is well within reach even with the challenges inherent to his status as a freed slave.

When Etta appears as an unexpected passenger on Nicholas’ ship, the two are thrown together in a hunt for a stolen artifact. Etta hopes it can help her return to her own time. Nicholas, meanwhile, believes giving the artifact to the Ironwoods can sever his remaining ties to the ruthless family while also keeping Etta safe.

Traveling across centuries and around the world, Nicholas and Etta will have to trust each other as they follow clues to the artifact’s long-hidden location. Along the way they will uncover secrets about Etta’s past and a truth that could threaten both of their natural times–and everything in between–in Passenger (2016) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Passenger is the first of a two-book series that is partly a homage to Outlander and partly all its own. The story will continue in Wayfarer.

Passenger is a thrilling adventure that spans countries and centuries. Each time period Etta visits is brought to life with vivid and well-researched descriptions ranging from the nuances of eighteenth century clothing to an eerily well-realized depiction of London during the Blitz.

Passenger is a book filled with a diverse group of time travelers who live across and between time–often spending large periods of their lives outside of their normal flow of time and living in a decidedly non-linear fashion.

Because of this fluidity, Passenger is filled with unlikely allies (and enemies) as characters who would never otherwise meet are brought together. Consequently the dynamic between Etta and Nicholas has a complex tension as they work to find common ground despite their shockingly different upbringings and times. Their initial attraction and romance is even more satisfying because these two characters meet as equals and partners.

Although Bracken has moved in a different direction from her popular Darkest Minds trilogy, the writing here remains strong with her usual attention to detail both in terms of an intricate plot and many rich settings. Passenger is a delightful novel sure to appeal to fantasy readers and fans of time travel stories as well as readers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Fable by Adrienne Young

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2015*

Charlie, Presumed Dead: A Review

charliepresumedeadEveryone is going to miss Charlie. He’s young, handsome, rich and charming. A world-traveler who always knows the right thing to say and all the right people. It’s a tragedy when Charlie is presumed dead when his bloody jacket is found at the site of a shocking accident with no trace of a body left behind.

Charlie’s memorial service is filled with mourners despite the short notice–including Lena and Aubrey. Although the two girls have never met, they have one important thing in common: both of them are dating Charlie.

While Aubrey came to the memorial seeking closure and hoping to move on from her tumultuous year as Charlie’s girlfriend, Lena is certain that there is more to Charlie’s disappearance including clues that will lead them both on an international hunt for the truth.

Traveling from Paris to London, Mumbai, Kerala and Bangkok will teach Aubrey and Lena some hard truths about themselves and whether they can trust each other. Their trip will also reveal shocking truths about Charlie that are beyond anything they could have imagined in Charlie, Presumed Dead (2015) by Anne Heltzel.

Charlie, Presumed Dead is Heltzel’s first novel.

Lena and Aubrey are complete opposites with few reasons to trust each other and fewer reasons to like each other. Heltzel’s dual narration allows readers to understand more of each girl’s motivations as well as their secrets. Charlie, Presumed Dead is a tense thriller that will have readers questioning everything.

Charlie, Presumed Dead has a narrow focus on Lena and Aubrey as they unravel Charlie’s lies. What begins as a simple plot expands into a simultaneously creepy and surreal journey as their search is contrasted against vivid international locations inspired by the author’s own travels.

Filled with twists, jaw-dropping shocks and several genuinely scary moments, Charlie, Presumed Dead is a page-turning mystery guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Possible Pairings: Dial M for Murder by Marni Bates, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

All the Bright Places: A Review

All the Bright Places by Jennifer NivenTheodore Finch has been contemplating death and how he might end his own life for years. But whenever he starts to think really hard about killing himself something good, even a small good thing, makes him reconsider. It’s hard to stay present and Awake, but once he surfaces Finch is always willing to try.

Violet Markey is counting the days until graduation when she can leave her small Indiana town and the sharp pain of her sister’s sudden death behind.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s easy for everyone to believe that Violet saved Finch. But that isn’t the truth.

After, when they pair up for a school project to explore the wonders of their state, both Finch and Violet realize they might have found exactly who they need in each other. But while Violet begins to embrace life again, Finch finds himself struggling to stay Awake and in the moment in All the Bright Places (2015) by Jennifer Niven.

Find it on Bookshop.

All the Bright Places is Niven’s first novel written for young adults. It was also optioned for a movie before its official release date.

All the Bright Places is very similar to The Fault in Our Stars both thematically and stylistically. It is also poised to be a defining book of 2015 (and possibly also of whatever year the movie adaptation is released if it moves beyond developmental stages) with its appeal and buzz not to mention critical acclaim in the form of several starred reviews.

It is also worth noting that this book is beautifully packaged with a lot of great details ranging from the cover colors to the post it note motif and even a special message on the spine of the physical book.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with such an anticipated title, Niven’s generally strong writing only serves to underscore the numerous flaws within this incredibly frustrating novel.

Spoilers ahead as we delve into deeper discussion . . .

Continue reading All the Bright Places: A Review

Chasing Power: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth DurstKayla had planned to spend her summer lazing about the beach in Santa Barbara with her best friend Selena and occasionally stealing things here and there to keep her mind sharp. After all, a sharp mind is very important when you can use it to move things.

Her plans for the summer are effectively derailed when a boy named Daniel appears out of nowhere. Literally. Because Daniel has a power of his own–the ability to teleport anywhere instantly. Threatened with blackmail, Kayla agrees to help Daniel steal a set of three ancient artifacts to help Daniel rescue his kidnapped mother.

As Daniel and Kayla travel around the world to collect the artifacts, Kayla soon realizes that the secrets she has been keeping, the kidnapping, and the artifacts may all connect back to each other–and to her own family–in a shocking act of betrayal that could change everything in Chasing Power (2014) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

While Kayla is a willful and often impulsive character, she is also an honest one who is willing to own up to her mistakes. Kayla’s own rash behavior is balanced well by best friend Selena who offers a down-to-earth foil to Kayla’s magical powers. Kayla’s mother is another a great addition to this story with her own charms–both magical and otherwise.

Chasing Power is a streamlined blend of magic, romance and page-turning action. This story is part urban fantasy and part treasure hunt in a satisfying blend of adventure and suspense.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, White Cat by Holly Black, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Caster by Elsie Chapman, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Rampant by Diana Peterfreund, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2014*

The Glass Sentence: A Review

The Glass Sentence by S. E. GroveBoston, 1891: Nearly a century has passed since the Great Disruption remade the world and threw all of the continents into different Ages. While Boston and the rest of New Occident moves forward in the 1890s, other parts of the world reside in drastically different Ages including some from the near past, prehistory and others that are entirely unknown.

Thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims knows all about maps thanks to her uncle Shadrack Elli, one of the most renowned carologers in New Occident. With the borders closing any day and Sophia’s parents still missing after ten long years with no word, Shadrack and Sophia prepare to leave New Occident and mount a proper search expedition.

Unfortunately in midst of their preparations, Shadrack is kidnapped. With no idea how to find him beyond one small clue and a basic knowledge of what to expect in the Baldlands, Sophia sets off with an unlikely traveling companion and little else. As Sophia and Theo journey toward the Baldlands’ capital of Nochtland they will uncover shocking truths about the Great Disruption and find themselves at the center of a vast conspiracy that could change the entire world in The Glass Sentence (2014) by S. E. Grove.

The Glass Sentence is Grove’s first novel. It is also the start of the Mapmakers Trilogy.

Groves presents a rich fantasy with gorgeous world-building. Maps at the beginning of the novel introduce readers to Sophia’s world as well as the outlying regions. The story opens right in the middle of the action as New Occident’s borders are closed and never lets up.

The story expertly plays with readers’ ideas of history and causality imagining, among other paradoxes, a world where John Donne is known through his works before the Great Disruption as England has not yet reached (and may never reach) the time of his birth. These details lend a haunting quality to The Glass Sentence allowing readers with knowledge of the related world history to imagine what might have been.

However readers who lack the historical background (due to youth or lack of interest) will still find an engrossing fantasy here. Sophia and Theo travel across New Occident and into the wilds of the Baldlands where they encounter outlandish travel companions and chilling villains.

Chapter epigraphs from Shadrack’s published works as well as other sources further the world-building and explain key details of this alternate history to readers while a narrative structure reliant on clocks and time-keeping help keep readers grounded in the story.

With so many vivid and evocative details in the world-building and backstory, The Glass Sentence is decidedly lengthy at 493 pages. Although the arc of this novel is resolved in this story, the over-arching story of Sophia’s missing parents will likely span the rest of the trilogy. Readers who enjoy thick, intricate fantasies will undoubtedly find a new favorite in this promising start to a series with both middle grade and young adult appeal.

Possible Pairings: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The Geography of You and Me: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. SmithLucy and Owen meet in an elevator trapped between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City highrise during a citywide blackout. What could have been an ordinary night spent alone in the dark becomes a shared moment of wonder for Lucy and Owen. Together they explore a Manhattan that looks more like a party than a crisis before admiring the shockingly bright stars over Manhattan’s skyline.

But after that one magical night, Lucy and Owen find themselves pulled in opposite directions. Literally. Owen and his father head for points west while Lucy and her parents move to Edinburgh.

Lucy and Owen don’t have a lot in common to start with. They don’t even know much about each other. Still their relationship plays out across the miles in the form of postcards and sporadic emails. Although both Lucy and Owen try to move on they soon realize an unfinished something keeps pulling them back to each other in The Geography of You and Me (2014) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Geography of You and Me is a delightful story of an unlikely long-distance relationship and an ode to the joys of travel and old-fashioned correspondence. Smith brings the wonder and frustrations of a New York blackout delightfully to life in the opening pages. The evocative prose just gets better from there as readers travel across the country with Owen and across the Atlantic with Lucy.

The story alternates between Lucy and Owen’s perspective to offer insights not just into their correspondence but also into the relationships both have with their parents. As much as The Geography of You and Me is a romance it is also an anthem for family and communication. With Lucy coming from a well-to-do family and Owen being on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, there are also some interesting moments about privilege and what that can mean in modern life.

Smith offers nods to social networking and emails while also hearkening back to the simpler and often more sincere communications found in postcards. It is highly likely readers will seek a new pen pal or join Post Crossing after finishing this cheerfully well-traveled novel.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, All I Need by Susane Colasanti, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Golden: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Golden by Jessi KirbyParker Frost knows exactly what her future holds. It definitely doesn’t include any detours onto roads less traveled. If Parker’s mother has her way, it won’t include anything poetic at all.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are as much a part of Parker’s town as any of the buildings. Once they were the golden couple of the local high school with everything ahead of them. Now they’ve been dead ten years leaving nothing behind but a crashed car. No one really knows what happened to them; no bodies were ever found and no one knows what caused that fatal accident even if everyone still wonders.

With a path to a full scholarship to Stanford followed med school and a successful life laid out for her, now is not the time for Parker to stumble. But when the key to the mystery surrounding Julianna and Shane all but throws itself at her, Parker has a hard time paying attention to the road she’s supposed to travel in Golden (2013) by Jessi Kirby.

Golden is Kirby’s third novel.

A funny thing happens sometimes with books. Sometimes everyone, almost universally, can love that book while you are sitting down, reading that book, and wondering what you missed. That, unfortunately happened with this book. (It actually happened with several books over the past couple of months.) Part of the problem here was absolutely me. I read Golden the week my mom had her brain surgery and this book wasn’t what I needed at the time. I’m not sure any book would have stood up to the scrutiny this one got while I waited twelve hours for news. That’s how it happens sometimes.

Kirby is good at what she does. Like her debut Moonglass, Golden is a story about a complicated family and a girl who feels apart in a town where everyone knows her. Parker is a narrator that a lot of readers will recognize and identify with. She’s the girl who always does the right thing and never takes a risk; she’s the girl who, at the end of high school, is wondering if all that caution was really worth it.

Kirby expertly captures the claustrophobia and unpredictability that surround life changes–especially graduating high school. Although I took very strong issue with how Parker handles (read: throws away) her chances at a full scholarship to a great school* I do think Parker is a strong point in this story. She is real and whether or not she is related to Robert Frost she was a decent character to travel follow through this book.

The problem is that for all its talk in the plot summary, Golden isn’t really a book about Parker Frost. Parker is essentially just a framing story for the mystery that unfolds surrounding Julianna Cruz and Shane Farnetti.

Golden is strongest in the beginning and the final chapters. In between what we have is a draggy story told in journal entries as Parker learns that the alleged golden couple of her town were really anything but.

A lot of time is spent with both Julianna and Parker wondering what they will do with their one “wild and precious” life (that quote is a key plot point). And many of the high school experiences rang true. Still, this story never came together for me as anything more than a frustrating read. Part of that, I am absolutely sure, is because I wasn’t in a good place while I was reading and there was too much other stuff taking up head space. Part of the problem might also been that, for better or worse, a lot of the big choices in my life are made and I’m on this road wherever it leads for the next while.

Golden is an interesting book and another solid if not (to me) exceptional read from a competent author. If you can get past the obvious framing structure and the frustrations I outlined here it might be more of a winner for you than it was for me.

*I also needed a full scholarship to get to college. Which I happily did get. I find it hard to believe anyone who wants to go to college so badly would throw that chance away just to see what comes next. This is what changing majors was designed for people!

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten