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Girl Well Read

Girl Well Read 

Published book reviewer, blogger of books & book lifestyle products, wine drinker and polka dot lover. I’d love to review your book next!  Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@girlwellread), Pintrest, Litsy, Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookLikes, and ReadFeed (Girl Well Read).

 

Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

Keeping Lucy - T. Greenwood

 

A special thank you to Goodreads First Reads, NetGalley, and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This heartbreaking story—inspired by true events—is a tale of how far a mother will go for her child.  In 1969, Ginny Richardson gave birth to a baby girl with Down Syndrome.  Her husband's family arrange to have the baby sent to Willowridge, a state-supported institution for children with intellectual disabilities.  Abbott, her husband, tries to convince Ginny that it is for the best and that they should move on after they grieve for her daughter whom, they were going to claim, died at birth.

Two years later, Ginny's best friend, Marsha, shows her articles about Willowridge—the living conditions are nothing short of horrifying, and the children are severely neglected.  Ginny, Marsha, and Ginny's six-year-old son visit the school to see for themselves if there is any truth to what is being reported and how Lucy is being cared for.  With the circumstances being exactly as described, Ginny takes Lucy and flees.  For the first time in her life, she is in control and in for the fight of her life against Ab and his powerful family.

Greenwood's writing is great, in fact, it's better than great.  She effortlessly draws the reader in and deftly balances the delicate subject matter with the story—based on real events—that needed to be told.  I felt that she kept the writing light on purpose given the horrific reports of institutions, like Willowridge, that actually existed.  It could be argued that this did the novel a disservice however, in this case, I think it worked.  Ginny was naive and passive and this type of character couldn't shoulder a heavier plot with a deeper exploration into both the depression that Ginny experienced as well as the deplorable conditions that Lucy was living in.      

At first, I was a little thrown by the third perspective, and the sentence structure was distracting because every sentence seemed to start with "Ginny".  Once I got past that and into the rhythm of the writing, I devoured this page-turner.

A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell

A Stranger on the Beach  - Michele Campbell

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, Macmillan, and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Caroline Stark is hosting a lavish housewarming party at her new beach house. When her husband, Jason, shows up not only late to the party, but followed by a Russian woman he claims is a business associate, the couple get into a very public and very ugly fight. She knows that Jason is lying and that the woman is really his mistress.

When her marriage falls apart and she is left with an empty bank account, and cancelled credit cards, Caroline has an impulsive fling with a bartender. Aidan also happened to be working her party that night and knows all about her husband problems. What she doesn't know is that Aidan has a history of violence.

As if things couldn't get worse, her college-aged daughter seems to be taking her father's side. Crestfallen, she turns to Aidan for comfort—but that comfort soon turns to revenge. The only problem is that their brief fling has left Aidan with a dangerous obsession with Caroline and her family. Meanwhile, Jason disappears and all eyes are on Caroline. Isn't it always the spouse?

Told from multiple points of view, Campbell confuses her reader (on purpose) by telling the same events from two very different perspectives. The dynamic is also interesting: Caroline is a wealthy, 43-year-old woman who is trying to keep up appearances to launch her career and social standing whereas Aidan is a 27-year-old bartender that served time for manslaughter. Both characters are unlikeable, untrustworthy, and unreliable.

There were a few plot holes that I ultimately struggled with, but I'll partially overlook given Campbell's strong writing and ability to deftly create suspense and tension. She pens some strong characters and used the unreliable narrator as the perfect mechanism to execute her effusive plot. There wasn't the startling revelation that I was hoping for in that I did figure it out, but again, her writing was intricate and compulsive.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date #3) - Jasmine Guillory

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Maddie and Theo are Alexa's two best friends. Alexa (The Wedding Date) isn't the only thing they have in common: they have a mutual hatred for one another since the moment they met. Theo is too uptight and arrogant for Maddie's taste, and Maddie is too boisterous for Theo's taste.

After a night of passion—that was an agreed upon mistake—Maddie and Theo can't stop thinking about each other. Unfortunately, they both share wedding party responsibilities which means that they will be seeing a lot of more of one another. The tension that's building further ignites their intense attraction. An attraction that only seems to be quelled by secret trysts.

Maddie and Theo won't admit that they like each other, but they also don't want to stop sleeping together. So they come up with some rules: they will keep their arrangement a secret, it will end when all of the wedding festivities are over, and they won't fall in love.

With the wedding fast approaching, and the end of their agreement near, the enemies-turned-lovers are secretly disappointed. Their connection can't be more than physical, right? And aren't rules meant to be broken?

Guillory is back with her third Wedding Date installment which is an updated version of the classic opposites attract story. Her take is cheeky, wickedly smart, and hot.

This story takes place part way through Alexa and Drew's relationship—although the timelines and characters overlap, you do not need to read Guillory's other books (The Wedding Date/The Proposal) before reading this one. Maddie and Theo take turns with this narrative and get some help from some new supporting characters, and some that may be familiar to readers. What I love about her writing is that it is so effortless and endearing. Guillory pens characters that are interesting and engaging and puts them in realistic situations that her readers can relate to.

Jasmine Guillory you are a gem! Your writing is charming, flirty, and clever.

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland

The Floating Feldmans - Elyssa Friedland

A special thank you to Penguin First to Read for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The matriarch of the family Annette Feldman decides she wants to do something for her milestone 70th birthday, so she organizes a cruise for her family.

But between sibling rivalries that keep rearing their ugly head, family secrets, and her teenage grandkids, Annette’s birthday vacation is looking like it is going to capsize. Sailing on the open seas, the Feldmans are forced to face the truths they’ve been ignoring all while learning that the people they once thought most likely to sink them are actually the ones who help them stay afloat.

I thought that the ship was an interesting vehicle for the story because it forced all of the characters to not only be in the same vicinity as one another, but it really pushed some of the family dynamics front and centre and created some interesting situations.

The exposition and build up were painfully long. Once Friedland's cast is finally assembled, I expected more by way of confrontations and satire. She did redeem herself with the ending, readers will be satisfied as they disembark.

All-in-all a fun read that's perfect for summer, or cruising. Told from multiple points of view, The Floating Feldmans really brings out the fun in dysfunctional.

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bunny - Mona Awad

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Set at Warren, an Ivy League university in a bleak New England town, Bunny is told from the sardonic perspective of Samantha Heather Mackey—Smackie for short.

Smackie is a lonely scholarship student whose only friend is Ava, a nihilistic and captivating art school drop out. But everything changes when Samantha receives a glitter-covered invitation to the Bunnies' fabled "Smut Salon" and finds herself ditching Ava to attend. Despite her hostility towards the privileged, and to the overly affected, precious girls in her highly selective MFA program, Samantha is drawn into the world of the Bunnies—a clique of rich girls that function as one lip-glossed entangled hug.

Samantha participates in their ritualized off-campus "workshop" where they magically conjure boys from rabbits. The boys, aka the Drafts (or the Darlings), are as beautiful as soap opera actors, but invariably flawed. The worst Drafts, who manifest as vapid-and menacing-babblers, are literally axed by their ruthless creators.

Torn between Ava's protective anarchy and the toxic matter-of-fact magic of the Bunnies, Samantha conjures something unimaginable, something that will bring these opposing worlds into a wild and deadly collision.

Awad is an incredible writer and without a doubt, she crafts a gripping tale that seizes you, albeit almost to the point of claustrophobia. Bunny is an original take on girl cliques and also of the classic outsider-desperate-to-fit-in story. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing, yet sinister and dark.

This book wasn't quite for me and I can't figure out exactly why and what didn't work—I took a few days before writing this review and I am still stumped. As much as Awad's writing is clever, unique, and fresh, it is so manic that it is exhausting. I also don't think I fully understood what I was reading in that this book was completely bonkers at times, sometimes in a good way, and sometimes...not so much.

That being said, I read an interview that Awad did for the CBC about her debut 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl and I'm intrigued. I mean, how could I not pick it up after learning that Depeche Mode was on her writing playlist. For those that follow me on social media/read my blog know that basically Depeche Mode is my religion and the soundtrack to my life, so yah...I'll definitely be reading it.

The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

The Hiding Place - C.J. Tudor A special thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The last thing that Joe Thorne wants is to return to his hometown. There's nothing there for him except regrets, painful memories, and tragedy. And he thought he would never go back, especially not after what happened to his sister, Annie, all those years ago. But Joe doesn't have a choice because it appears to be happening again and he needs to set things right. Joe is a bit of a mess—he's got a drinking problem and a gambling problem—and his former friends are not happy he's back, nor are his enemies. But the hardest part of returning home will be going back to the abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life was forever changed. For Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn't the day his sister went missing, it was the day she came back. I assume this is a homage to Stephen King, otherwise, her plot twist was too familiar to anyone that has read Pet Cemetery. That being said, there were parts that were extremely clever and tight, and then there were times where the narrative rambled and completely went off the rails. But what caught me the most off guard were the supernatural/horror elements in a book that I assumed was in the thriller/mystery/suspense genre. If you like horror, and you are a fan of Stephen King, than this book will totally be your bag.

Park Avenue Summer by Renée Rosen

Park Avenue Summer - Renee Rosen

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Single girl, Alice Weiss, leaves her small Midwestern town for the glitz and glamour of New York City. She lands a job with Cosmopolitan Magazine as the assistant to their bold and sassy new Editor-in-Chief, Helen Gurley Brown.

Editors and writers resigning on the spot. They are refusing to work for such a shocking woman (she wrote the scandalous bestseller Sex and the Single Girl) who dares to talk to women about taboo topics that should be off limits, not headlines on a magazine cover.

Alice's loyalty is tested when she is propositioned to sabotage her new boss. Instead, she remains steadfast and loyal, and becomes even more determined to help Helen succeed in her position at the helm. Alice is learning how to make her own way in New York City and that the modern Cosmopolitan woman can have it all.

When a book is pitched as Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada, you read it!

Rosen's writing was whip-smart and elegant. Alice was the perfect vehicle, not only was she the target audience of the magazine, but she was the perfect match to balance out Gurley Brown's impulsive and flighty whims. Both women have aspirations—Alice wants to be a photographer and Helen wants to make her mark in the male-dominated publishing industry—and Rosen shows how it is possible for women to support one another without sacrificing themselves.

Pour yourself a cosmopolitan and enjoy!

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

The Island of Sea Women - Lisa See

A special thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Scribner for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa See's newest novel is set on the small Korean island of Jeju and is about female friendship and family secrets.

Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends that are from vastly different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they become divers like the rest of the women in their seaside village. The all-female diving collective is led by Young-sook’s mother. Even though they are "baby divers," the girls realize that with this great responsibility comes great danger.

The novel spans several decades and is anchored with vignettes set in 2008. These vignettes that are dispersed throughout the story provide clues that move the reader forward, but at the same time, anchor them in the past. Beginning during the Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 40s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, and in the modern era which introduces the divers to wet suits and cell phones.

Jeju's residents are caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will eventually inherit her mother’s position as their leader. The girls have shared more than just dives, they have shared life's milestones and all of their secrets. But when outside forces turn their world upside down, it become too much for their friendship to survive.

The second half of the novel chronicles the 4.3 Incident. Named for the date it began, which was April 3, 1948, three years after Japan surrendered occupation of Korea, tens of thousands of people were killed. See dramatizes the atrocities committed by the military during the Bukchon massacre in a harrowing scene in which Young-sook loses both the majority of her family and her friendship to Mi-ja.

See's novel is incredibly rich in culture and history, both of which are marred by grief and a monumental historic event. Her writing is intricate and moving, and innately female. She explores the relationships between women: mother-daughter, sister, coworker, and best friend. The best friend dynamic is a particular kind of intimacy that opens you up to betrayal because there are things that you would only tell your best friend. In her novels, it is rarely the men that bring these women any joy. Abuse of male power is also another popular theme whether it be fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers, or bosses.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams

A special thank you to NetGalley, BookishFirst, Gallery/Scout Press, and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Meet Queenie Jenkins—a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman who is straddling two heritages and trying find her place. She has just been dumped by her long-time white boyfriend and is on notice at work where she is constantly comparing herself to her white middle class peers.

Needless to say, Queenie is not in a good frame of mind and she is making some pretty awful decisions concerning who she spends her free time with and with whom she is seeks comfort from.

Carty-Williams has written an honest account of one woman's struggle, which sadly many women can relate to, and at the same time, given us a character to root for. Unfortunately Queenie's story isn't unique, there are many women out there struggling with issues of sexism, racism, and self-acceptance. She is a modern woman trying to navigate her way through a messy break-up, figuring out where she fits in, and learning that her self-worth does not come in the form of toxic relationships.

Queenie is so much more than Bridget Jones, and I don't mean that as a slight to Helen Fielding's brilliant heroine, but there is no comparison. Bridget is a funny, awkward, and endearing character that journals her life in cheeky entries, whereas Queenie is a more serious character with incredible depth. There is also a heaviness about the book and again, this is another reason why a Bridget Jones comparison is doing this novel a disservice.

 

I adored her grandparents, especially her grandfather (and those of you who have read this book will know what scene I am referring to). What I didn't like was that the author uses Queenie's promiscuity as a symptom of her anxiety and I'm not sure that this is entirely accurate—I think that it is rather a symptom of her lack of self esteem.

What is also interesting is that Carty-Williams makes no apologies for Queenie, nor should she. She is a bold, brash, and flawed character who at times does some really unlikeable things. But we keep pulling for her.

Carty-Williams explores identity, racism, mental health and what its like to be a young woman in the dating scene in the age of technology. She tackles some daunting social issues and uses Queenie's humour and solid supporting cast of friends/grandparent to keep the story from getting too dark.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife - Samantha Downing

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

A charming couple living in the burbs with their two children—she's a real estate agent and he is a tennis pro—that seem to have it all, even good looks. They are the couple next door, members of your clubs, parents of your kid's friends, and the friends you have dinner parties with.

 

But forget about the seven-year itch, how about the fifteen-year one that brings with it the most interesting, yet gruesome way to keep a marriage alive.

 

Theirs is getting away with murder.

 

Samantha Downing, that was a crazy ride and I loved every second of it! The character development was incredible and the reader will have a love/hate relationship with them. Gah! This book was dark and twisty in the best possible way and I'm blown away that this seize-you-by-the-throat-thriller it is her debut.

 

Downing's writing was taught and tense and kept me on my toes. I literally had no idea what was going to happen and let me just say that the last sentence of the book literally made me gasp.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers - Karen Thompson Walker

A special thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group—Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A college freshman stumbles back to her dorm room and falls asleep. She sleeps all morning and into the next evening. Her roommate, Mei, tries to wake her without success; paramedics can't rouse her, nor the doctors at the hospital. Then another girl falls asleep, and then another.

The college is put on lockdown quarantining the students. Panic sets in as the once sleepy town descends into chaos. Those that are infected are experiencing a higher-than-normal level of brain activity and are intensely dreaming, but what are they dreaming about?

Thompson Walker uses third person perspective and divides the book into small, digestible chapters. This is not particularly effective, in fact there is a disconnect—it is as if the narrator is completely detached. Because of this format, the characters are not fully developed and I didn't feel an affinity towards any of them—I wanted to, especially Mei.

Written in luminous, hypnotic prose, The Dreamers is a beautiful, sweeping novel yet I was left feeling frustrated because nothing actually happens. That, coupled with the fact that there are several loose ends, left me thinking about this book long after I finished it. I'm rather perplexed to be honest, and not in a good thought-provoking way, but questioning what I just actually read.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gary

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls - Anissa Gray

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

In the same vein as The Mothers and one of my favourite books from last year, An American Marriage, this incredible debut is about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and the complicated relationships that can consume you instead of nurture you.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing can prepare them for the literal trial that will turn their lives upside down.

Althea is the eldest of the girls and therefore the default matriarch after the death of their mother. She has had no choice but to be strong and is domineering. Therefore it comes as quite a shock to her sisters when Althea and her husband, Proctor, are arrested. They were always such upstanding citizens, active and trusted members in their community, and they are disgraced in an instant. Yet no one knows the real truth, not even the Butler sisters.

Viola and Lillian are left to care for Althea and Proctor's teenage twin girls, yet they are battling their own demons that are impacting their abilities to fully care for Baby Vi and Kim. What unfolds is a story of loyalty, love, and the complexities of relationships—sometimes those we are closest to we know the least about.

The story is told through each sister. Their voices are unique and their character is rich and fully developed. Gray also includes letters between Proctor and Althea during their incarceration. Although they are at the centre of the story, we never get a true sense of who they are and are left speculating like the rest of the characters and townspeople.

This incredible debut was haunting and eloquent. Gray's writing is stunning and complex, much like the relationships that are explored in The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls. She doesn't back down from issues that are real and raw—eating disorders, abuse, depression, guilt, dysfunction, etc., and her characters are left hungry for love and acceptance.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test - Helen Hoang

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Bride Test is a spin off of sorts from The Kiss Quotient, Hoang's smash debut. This book is about Khai, who is Michael's cousin. He has no emotions when it comes to love or grief; he is literal, he likes when things balance (he is an accountant), and is easily irritated with others, especially when they touch his things. He thinks he is defective when in fact he is not, he is on the spectrum. His overbearing mother, Cô Ng, decides it is time for him to get married and takes matters into her own hands. She returns to Vietnam in order to find him the perfect bride.

Esme Tran is a mixed-race, single mother that lives in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City. She has always felt she doesn't belong. When Cô Ng offers her a chance to come to America to seduce her son, she accepts. This could not only be the break her little family needs, but she could also track down her biological father.

Seducing Khai proves to be incredibly difficult—instead of making Khai fall in love with her, she is falling head-over-heals for him. With her time almost up, and with Khai convinced he is unable to love, Esme feels she has failed.

But there is more than one way to love.

I found this book less provocative than The Kiss Quotient because there was more build up and tension and I certainly don't mean this as a criticism. It was more about the journey of falling in love, learning one's likes, dislikes, boundaries, and an exploration in the discovery of pleasure and consent. Esme and Khai's journey is a learning experience.

This story is smart, sassy, sexy, exactly what you would expect from a romance book. But on the flip side, Khai's struggles are real and genuine. Hoang really shines here and brings forward her voice and experience also having Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Hoang's character development is incredible. She pens characters that are layered, complex, and flawed, yet are incredibly endearing. I adored Esme and learned by reading the Author's Note that she is loosely-based on Hoang's own mother who was also an uneducated immigrant (I encourage you to read this, it is informative and touching). There is also humour sprinkled throughout—I especially enjoyed Quân and the dynamic between him and his brother.

Helen Hoang is a gift. She brings to life characters that are not considered mainstream, but their stories need to be told and are just as valuable, enlightening, and entertaining.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Moron

The Clockmaker’s Daughter - Kate Morton

A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

My real name, no one remembers.

The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

 

Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel that contains a sepia photograph of a beautiful Victorian woman, and an artist's sketchbook with a drawing of a gabled house by the river. She is taken aback by the drawing because it is so familiar—it reminds her of the house from the stories her late mother used to tell her. But who is the beautiful woman in the picture? This sends Elodie on a journey to Birchwood Manor, an estate on the river Thames, in the hopes that she will uncover the identity of the girl that transcends the photo with her arresting gaze.

 

A century and a half earlier, Edward Radcliffe hosts a month-long retreat for group of artists at Birchwood. Their plan is to create art, but at the close of the month, Radcliffe's fiancée has been shot and killed, his muse and a family heirloom have vanished, and his life and reputation is in disrepair.

 

The Clockmaker's Daughter is a remarkable story that is told in multiple voices and spans many years.  Its themes are adversity, loss, love, and resilience and at the heart of it all is the ghost of Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.

 

Morton's writing is gorgeous, sweeping, and intricate. This hauntingly beautiful story is made up of vignettes—which are stories from the people that lived in the house—that thread the past and present storylines together. My only criticism is that there are too many of them and what happens is that they detract from the narrative. There are times where several chapters go by without any mention of the main characters and unfortunately, this is where some of Morton's audience will jump ship.

 

The finale is incredibly satisfying and I encourage the reader to slog through the vignettes because their patience will be rewarded. Morton makes it all worthwhile by harmonizing the stories and characters. She is a master and her writing is breathtaking.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

99 Percent Mine - Sally   Thorne

A special thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Darcy Barrett has travelled the world and can safely say that there is no man that measures up to Tom Valeska.  Tom's only flaw is that Darcy's twin brother, Jamie, claimed him first and that he is 99% loyal to her brother.    

 

When the twins inherit a rundown cottage from their grandmother, they are tasked with restoring it and selling it.  Before Darcy can set sail on her next adventure, house-flipper Tom has arrived in a tight t-shirt with his power tools (and hot tool belt) and he's single.

 

Darcy decides to stick around for a while.  It's not because she's been in love with Tom since she was eight-years-old, or that his face has inspired her to pick up her camera after her failed stint as a wedding photographer left her doubting her talent, it's to make sure that Jamie doesn't ruin the cottage's aesthetic with his modern taste.  Right?  

 

Can Darcy's delicate heart take being this close to Tom?  And can she turn the tables and make Tom 99 percent hers?

 

I loved The Hating Game.  It was clever, sharp, and cheeky!  But this book...I only liked it.  Okay so here's what I think happened: Thorne fell down with her character development.  Take Darcy for example, she's honest, and raw, but uses sarcasm and snark to hide behind her perceived tough exterior.  But this felt a bit forced and clichéd, and she ends up just being difficult and unlikeable.  Tom is your classic 'boy next door' type and although endearing, he was almost too good and dare I say...flat?  It felt like he was written to be the polar opposite of Darcy to make their relationship more layered and complicated, but again, this seemed to be a tactic.  You never get a sense of who he really is and he seems to be constantly eclipsed by those closest to him (his mother, his best friend, and now Darcy).  And can we just talk about Jamie for a second?  What a jerk.  I have the sneaking suspicion that he was underdeveloped because he will be a main character in another book.  

 

The plot came off as formulaic and a bit basic.  I don't want to get into too much detail here as to not give anything away, but I'm sure you can guess what happens.  I wanted the goods—I wanted more of their childhood, more about Tom and his mother, about Darcy's travels and her "Felicity" moment of cutting her hair, and more about Jamie (maybe then I wouldn't think he was such a tosser).  These relationships are the framework of the character development but they were underdeveloped and therefore produce some underwhelming characters.           

 

Where Thorne excels is with the ability to completely draw the reader in and not let go until the end.  She is incredibly engaging and I completely devoured both of her books in one sitting.  It is for this reason that she is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors and I will read anything she writes.  There is an ease to her writing and she has such an ear for conversation and banter which translates extremely well on the page.  

 

While this book might not have been everything I had hoped it would be, there are going to be those that love it.  I just didn't love it as much as The Hating Game.  I mean, Josh Templeman...  Enough said.  

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People - Sally Rooney

A special thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada/Knopf Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A coming-of-age love story of classmates Connell and Marianne.  He's a the popular star of the football team and she is the mysterious loner.  Connell's mother works for Marianne's family and the two begin a complicated and secret relationship that starts when Connell comes to Marianne's house to pick his mother up from work.

Fast-forward a year and they are both students at Trinity College in Dublin.  Marianne has come out of her shell and flourishes socially while it is Connell that is struggling to fit in.  Throughout their time at university, they ebb and flow in each other's lives, always drawn back together.  As Marianne starts a downward spiral into self-destruction, Connell and Marianne must face just how far they are willing to go to save each other.

Rooney explores the complexity of relationships, the obsessive and possessive elements of first love, what class and social standing really means, and the entanglement of families and friendships.  She nails the disconnect that many teens experience with the real world and also with how self-absorbed they are while trying to find their place in the world.

What I found exhausting about the book on a whole was how stereotypical the characters were.  The women wanted attention and to be loved, all the while not realizing their worth.  The male characters were lacking in morals.  Just like the jock character in a teen movie, they are 'boys being boys' and this is perfectly acceptable (cue eye roll).  She also pens some vile characters that blur the lines with things like bullying and neglect that aren't fully explored, instead they simply vanish.

The writing was poignant and stirring; this book had so much potential but I couldn't see beyond what I mentioned above.