Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place by Amy ZhangLiz Emerson is one of the most popular girls in school, and from the outside it seems like she lives the perfect life. However, she secretly is suffering on the inside and is afraid to ask for help. Instead, she decides to leave her life entirely and plans to drive her car off the road and make it look like an accident. What she didn’t count on was that she wouldn’t be killed instantly, but would instead survive and be taken to the hospital in critical condition, where the doctors say the only way she will survive is if she wants to keep fighting to live.

This was a really powerful story that reminded me a bit of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay. However in this story, Liz was purposely trying to kill herself, and instead of the story being told from her point of view it is actually told by a narrator who isn’t identified until the end of the book. The narration jumps back and forth between the narrator watching Liz’s friends and family in the days after the accident and flashbacks of what Liz’s life was like before the accident and how everything led up to that point.

Liz’s father died when she was very young and her mother works a job that keeps her traveling most of the time so Liz spends most of her time alone. This is definitely a big factor contributing to her depression, and leads to her reckless behavior like drinking and driving erratically. It seems that Liz does things like that just to avoid being bored and alone with her own thoughts. What depresses Liz most of all is herself–she has an extreme case of self-loathing and feels that by killing herself she is making the world better. Liz’s hatred of herself comes from the way she treats people–she acts like a mean girl most of the time at school, messing up the lives of those who wrong her even in the slightest way, and then once she realizes how much she hurts people she regrets it and hates herself for what she has done.

The sad thing is that you can see how much Liz is trying to hint that she needs help, especially during the last week of her life. Everyone is so consumed with their own lives or they think that because Liz is rich and popular her life is therefore perfect, and this blinds them to what is really going on. The only one who watches Liz and seems to care about getting to know the real Liz Emerson is Liam, a boy from a different crowd at school who is the first to see Liz’s accident and call the police.

Overall, Falling into Place was a powerful story that was difficult to put down. I am still in awe of the fact that Amy Zhang is still a high school student and she was able to write this amazing book!

Falling into Place will be released on September 9, 2014.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went by Gayle FormanWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR IF I STAY

Where She Went takes place three years after If I Stay and is told from Adam’s point of view. Adam and Mia have been apart for nearly three years now and their lives have gone in different directions. Adam has used their breakup as the driving force behind his music, which subsequently led to his success as a rock star. Mia went to Julliard and is now playing concerts at all the biggest venues. Right before Adam is supposed to leave for a tour in Europe, he and Mia run into each other in New York City for the first time in three years.

This book had a very different tone from the first book. Adam is very angry and depressed after all he has been through with Mia. He still loves her and is upset at how their breakup went, and he is depressed because even though he achieved everything he wanted to career-wise, he absolutely hates his career. He has fought to keep Mia’s name out of the press but unfortunately he can never get her completely out of his own head.

Where She Went is told in a similar fashion as If I Stay, alternating between current time and flashbacks. Through the flashbacks we learn what happened after Mia got out of the hospital and how their relationship began to decline when she moved to New York, and we also get to see how Adam’s career took off and what he has done since Mia left. What is hard for Adam also is that he constantly had to be there for Mia after she lost her family in the accident, but what many people didn’t realize was that he loved them as well so he was also hurting badly after their deaths and had nobody to comfort him.

When Adam and Mia meet up after all this time, it is awkward for them both at first. Adam is still angry with Mia for how she left things and isn’t entirely sure what spending time with her will result in. They are both leaving for different countries the next day–Adam to England and Mia to Japan–and know that they have only this one night to fix whatever went wrong between them and have closure. The direction that this book took was very interesting and I was definitely surprised at the way it ended.

Overall, Where She Went was a great follow up to If I Stay. I liked getting Adam’s perspective and it was interesting to see how much Mia’s family’s accident affected so many lives.

Where She Went was released on April 1, 2011 and is the second book in the If I Stay series.

 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

Mia and her family decide to go out for a drive on a snowy day. When their car is hit by a truck, Mia is separated from her body and watches as she is taken to the hospital in critical condition. As she watches her life happen from outside her own body, she realizes that she has to make a choice: to return to her life after all she has lost, or to let herself die and move on.

This was such a beautiful story. Mia is such a rare teenager–she has a really wonderful family and she knows it. Most teenagers are constantly fighting with their parents but Mia absolutely loves her family and enjoys spending time with them and isn’t ashamed to admit it. This just makes it so much worse for her after the accident because she knows how much she has lost.

The story is told from Mia’s point of view from outside her body. She’s almost like a ghost–nobody can see or hear her; she’s just able to watch what is happening around her. The story jumps between what is happening in the hospital and flashbacks of Mia’s life growing up and her love story with Adam. I really liked how Forman did this–it allows the reader to get Mia’s story gradually and by the end of the book you’re just as torn as she is about the choice she has to make.

Mia probably wouldn’t be as torn about her decision if it wasn’t for Adam. She and Adam are completely different–he is into rock music and plays in a band and she is quiet and plays classical music on her cello–yet they balance each other out perfectly. They were already having problems in their relationship because their music careers were going in different directions, but they were fighting for a way to stay together. When Mia realizes that moving on and dying means also leaving Adam behind, she becomes even more unsure about her choice.

This book really makes you think about life and death, and what you would do when faced with a choice like Mia’s. Continuing on and living despite all she has lost is definitely the harder choice, especially since medically Mia will face a lot of challenges, but taking the easy way out and dying is the harder choice for the people she leaves behind. Mia begins to realize that her choice doesn’t only affect her, but instead will have an impact on everyone close to her.

Overall, If I Stay was a beautiful and powerful story that makes you realize how quickly our lives can change. I loved how the story was told in a back and forth way from Mia’s point of view, and I was literally unable to put this book down.

If I Stay was released on January 1, 2009 and is the first book in the If I Stay series. It is also being made into a movie that will be released on August 22, 2014.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund“We can only be responsible for what we ourselves do.”

Persis Blake publicly plays the role of a rich socialite, spending time at parties discussing clothes and gossip. But in her private life, she is the Wild Poppy, a notorious spy who rescues people of Galatea from being Reduced and sneaks them over to the island of Albion, where she resides. When Justen Helo, a medic from Galatea, finds her ill after one of her missions and helps her return home, she decides to keep him close so that she can discover his true motives in Albion. What she didn’t expect was how she would begin to feel for him, and how much she would wish she could tell him the truth about who she is.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is actually a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars. While you don’t need to read the first book in order to understand this one, it definitely helps because some characters from that book reappear in this one. I absolutely loved the first book, and the second was just as good.

This book is actually a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I haven’t read but definitely want to after reading this one. Persis has always been very intelligent and has had a bright future ahead of her, but when her best friend Isla’s family is killed and Isla is made acting queen of Albion, Persis abandons school and her future in order to help her friend. She creates the Wild Poppy in order to help Isla make a difference while the council of Albion prevents Isla from actually doing anything politically about the rebellion in Galatea. In Galatea, the rulers are Reducing people–basically giving them a drug that makes them lose their mental capacities. The Wild Poppy saves these people who are Reduced and brings them to Albion to recover.

Justen Helo decides to abandon Galatea when he realizes what is really going on. He sees Persis as nothing more than a flaky socialite however, and doesn’t realize how much of a difference she is actually making. He begins to work in the lab, trying to find a cure for the Reduced, and tries to keep from Persis how involved he really was in the rebellion in Galatea. Persis uses the image she created for herself as a ditzy socialite to keep people from finding out that she is really the Wild Poppy, but unfortunately it keeps Justen, the one person whom she may actually want to be herself with, from seeing who she really is.

Peterfreund does a brilliant job building the world of New Pacifica. Her descriptions paint a vivid world and by doing so she creates an intricate and compelling story that you can’t put down. The flutternotes were the most interesting detail for me–little holographic notes that basically fly from one person to another through the air and then deliver a message to them via an electronic device on their palm. Every detail of this story was fascinating and unique and added a great sci-fi aspect to the plot.

Overall, Across a Star-Swept Sea was a fascinating story with great world building and beautiful writing. I look forward to reading more stories about New Pacifica!

Across a Star-Swept Sea was released on October 15, 2013 and is a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Toxic Heart by Theo Lawrence

Toxic Heart by Theo LawrenceSince Aria and Hunter started a rebellion in Mystic City, Aria has been in hiding outside the city while Hunter has been underground in the city leading the rebels. Aria is growing more and more restless because she misses her boyfriend and feels like she is not helping anyone by hiding out. When she is forced to return to the city and Hunter, she realizes that the Hunter she fell in love with has changed. Aria believes that he can still be the leader they need, and she tries to reunite the city rather than cause more destruction.

Mystic City was a really unique story so I was looking forward to reading this sequel. However, it seems that this book fell into the sophomore slump. The romance between Aria and Hunter, which basically drove the entire story of the first book, completely died in this book. Hunter was distant and cold and had a completely different personality than in the first book. He kept pushing Aria away and doing things that the old Hunter never would’ve even considered in order to win the rebellion. Basically, he became extremely unlikable.

Aria herself became kind of annoying also. She seemed even more naive in this book than in the first, and kept putting herself in obviously dangerous situations and then is shocked when her life is threatened. She wants the city to reunite and everyone to live in peace and harmony, which is all well and good but more than a little bit impossible. I was glad that she finally started learning to fight though, instead of relying on everyone else to save her all the time.

The story as a whole was a bit dragged out, with Aria basically searching the city for the heart of her dead mystic friend for much of the book. The whole book was basically Hunter telling Aria to stay put and do nothing and Aria going out and doing what she wants instead. The ending was definitely different than I expected, and I may still read the next book just to find out how it all ends.

Overall, Toxic Heart was not as good as the first book in the series. I was really surprised that Hunter, such a pivotal character from the first book, had such a diminished role in this one. The romance that was so important to the first book completely fell flat in this one, and I honestly don’t know what will happen in the next book.

Toxic Heart was released on April 8, 2014 and is the second book in the Mystic City series.

The One by Kiera Cass

The One by Kiera Cass“The best people all have some kind of scar.”

America Singer has to make a decision once and for all–will she choose Maxon and a life as a princess, or Aspen and a normal life? Both options have their pros and cons but what America begins to realize is that her decision affects more people than she could have imagined. In The One, America has to choose her future, knowing her life may never return to what it was.

I had been waiting to read this book for what seemed like forever and I literally downloaded it to my Nook at midnight on its release date. All three of The Selection books were super fast reads and I literally finished this one later that night. I couldn’t wait to find out who America would choose and how everything would play out and I was definitely not disappointed.

In this book America begins to realize that the other girls are more than just competition. She realizes that they each have qualities that would make them wonderful future queens, and finally instead of just trying to drag each other down, the girls begin to enjoy their time together because they know it is limited.

We also get to see more of what is going on politically throughout the country and how America and Maxon could help to change things. There is a good amount of action in this book that keeps the pace moving quickly. We learn a lot more about the country’s past and about the different types of rebels and what their actual agendas are. All loose ends are tied up pretty nicely, though I will say that towards the end things were a little bit more rushed than I would’ve liked.

Overall, The One was a great ending to the trilogy. I’m sad to leave these characters but I really loved the ending.

The One was released on May 6, 2014 and is the final book in The Selection trilogy.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonPrincess Lia is being forced to marry against her will. Her parents have secured her a marriage to a prince of another land–a prince she has never even met. As a First Daughter, she is supposed to have the gift of sight, which makes her valuable. However, Lia knows that she does not have the gift and that her parents are lying in order to form an alliance with a different kingdom. Lia refuses to be a political pawn and instead runs away on her wedding day, hiding in a far off village while pretending to be a waitress in an inn. When two mysterious men arrive and appear interested in her, she finds herself torn between the two, not realizing that one is the prince she ran away from and the other an assassin sent to murder her.

This was such a great read! Lia is a smart girl who isn’t the typical princess–she hates doing the normal “girly” princess tasks and instead loves to run around with her brothers. When she finds out that she is expected to marry a stranger and move to a nearby kingdom that she has never been to, she is extremely unhappy. She is not the type to sit and be a docile wife but rather she loves to talk back to her father’s advisers and keeps herself educated. Lia, along with her maid and best friend, Pauline, flees the kingdom, leading her father’s men on many false trails and managing to hide herself away in a distant village.

What was really incredible about this book was the narration style. The majority of the book is told from Lia’s point of view, but every few chapters we get a short chapter told from the prince’s point of view and then from the assassin’s. This enables the reader to get a better idea of the other character’s motives and how they are conflicted once faced with Lia. The prince chases after her to see what kind of girl was bold enough to jilt him at his wedding and nearly cause a war between two kingdoms, and the assassin was sent by his employer from a distant land to kill Lia. However, once he meets her, he finds this more and more difficult to accomplish.

Lia is a very humble character for a princess–she gets a job in an inn and is willing to learn and pull her own weight in order to make her way. She doesn’t expect to be handed anything simply because of who she is and she treats her former maid Pauline as an equal. After spending some time away from home and then hearing from her brother about the war that is brewing, she realizes that running away did not only stop the wedding, but may have started more than she intended. Though she is enjoying her new life, she realizes that she may have to consider returning and facing her responsibilities before it is too late. It grows increasingly difficult to leave, however, because she finds herself gaining the attention of both the prince and the assassin, both of whom are torn between their feelings for her and their own responsibilities.

Overall, The Kiss of Deception was an exciting fantasy read that kept me turning pages. The narration style really made the story, especially with a twist I wasn’t expecting, and I look forward to reading the sequel!

The Kiss of Deception will be released on July 15, 2014 and is the first book in The Remnant Chronicles.