Motherest – Kristen Iskandrian

MOTHEREST can most definitely act as a cautionary tale and could be an interesting suggested read for everyone graduating high school and heading out to university in the fall. Boys and girls alike.

Though it didn’t start out that way. Agnes’ mom already left her first, so heading out to university did not cause a great teary chaos behind, what with her father numb to the core. She’s got a roommate, who is positive and overall sunny in her behavior. She’s got a crush and classes she’s focusing on.

But then her crush becomes more than a crush and suddenly she’s always at his place. Suddenly she’s fallen for someone. And suddenly… she gets pregnant. She needs her mother more than ever, but the only comfort she can get in that department is secretly writing her mother letters that are never received and never answered.

To her credit, Agnes is pretty strong in all of this. There is so much change in her life, and while she is in denial of her new reality and the new emotions cursing through her for a while, she is still able to make some decisions and accept the support of others, more notably her father.

As scary, unexpected and emotional as Agnes’ new ‘’situation’’ is to her and others in her life, this is regardless a very beautiful, and I dare say lyrical, story. I think everyone’s experience with pregnancy is unique in some ways, and Agnes understands that she has other options, that people expect her to ‘’deal’’ with the baby and continue her studies, but she follows her own path, makes her own choices and handles the both positive and negative consequences that come with that.

I do have an issue with Agnes’ mother (well, there’s a whole club for that, really), because though we are given context around the tragedy Agnes’ family went through, we are still told little about who Agnes’ mother is, meaning that her character remains pretty one-dimensional throughout the book. I know Agnes doesn’t understand her well either, so it is jarring at times to have a character take so much mental space in someone’s life and for neither the reader nor heroine to decipher her.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

The Defining Decade (Updated Edition) – Meg Jay

This is my second time reading Meg Jay’s book written for twenty-year-olds, but my first time trying the updated edition. The first time I read it – over a year ago – was around the beginning of the lockdown and my future was more uncertain than ever. I really needed this book. Life has not necessarily gone to ‘‘normal’’ yet: in-person learning has not started yet, the mask is still a must, 2 m distance a necessity and social events have not all been translated to in person. But I am in a better place with regards to how I feel about my future. I’m still uncertain about it – and I do wish I could change that since I’m graduating soon – but I am feeling more hopeful about the choices that I will have to make and feel more ready to make them.

This book helped me feel more confident about where I am and validated my feelings of not knowing where I belong, where I’m meant to go and with whom I’m meant to connect. A lot of twentysomethings, as Dr. Jay states, are confused. Not only that, but she says that confusion is pretty normal at this state of our lives, when our brains are not even fully developed yet and possibly won’t be until we turn thirty. That is a scary thing to hear but also liberating in a way. It means that chances are I’m going to remain confused for quite a bit about various things. But the good thing about it is that there is so much I, and every other twenty-four-year-old, can learn in this period. According to Meg Jay, this is the it period where if we want to change something about ourselves – our personalities – we just might and it doesn’t have to take everything from us to do that.

Initially, when I read the unedited edition, I felt like the twenties were the worst period to be in. Possibly because I’m mentally healthier and more positive about the present and future, I feel differently about my twenties. When I read it the first time, I focused on everything I didn’t have – hadn’t graduated yet, hadn’t started my master’s, didn’t feel hopeful about dating, was still friends with people I should have moved on from a long time ago, felt a lot of anxiety about the day-to-day life and was working somewhere that brought me little to no happiness anymore. I was a mess, truly. I’m cleaning myself up, and guess what, I can do that because my brain is receptive to change. I’m finishing my master’s in less than a year, planning to move out of my mom’s place and hoping to get involved in clubs and associations to make more social memories before getting my diploma. I’m in a period of transition – like a lot of twenty-year-olds are, and although that’s super scary, it’s completely normal and I’m ready to face my fears.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Bunheads – Sophie Flack

As much as I enjoy reading and reviewing new releases, which can be very exciting, especially if there’s hype associated with those releases, I also find pleasure in plunging into older books that most people have completely forgotten about.

This is one of those forgotten releases. Bunheads tells the story of 19-year-old Hannah Ward, who trains to be promoted as a ballerina and have her own solo performances. So far, so good. She works hard: lives and breathes ballet. But when she meets a cute guy at a bar, the world outside of ballet tugs at her and she grows resentful of the limited life of a ballet dancer.

First of all, the cute guy Hannah meets makes her feel guilty for working hard at her goal since she can’t spend much time with him, which I’m really on the fence about. Second of all, I was frustrated with Hannah’s unsettled mind. She’s dating two guys because she can’t decide on one. Also, one week she’s dedicated to ballet, the next one she takes it easy and repeat x 10. Basically, Hannah has a lot of growing to do, which she wasn’t able to do while focusing solely on ballet and now she’s considering what other options are out there that would be more appropriate for the person she wishes to become.

Yes, it’s frustrating at times. Emotional turmoil can be exhausting. And yet, and yet, I finished this one in two sittings. As eye-roll-worthy as it could get, I found it pretty interesting. I recently read a book about a ballet dancer who got injured – The Other Side of Perfect – and really liked it, so I was excited to know more about the world of a ballet dancer, especially a professional one. While part of me wishes Hannah Ward had made different decisions, I understood where she was coming from and I appreciated her openness about her feelings and thoughts with the reader. By the end of this book, I really felt like I knew her, whereas some characters remain strangers until the very end. So, yes, there are elements that should have been worked better – and certainly Hannah could have been less judgmental of others and of herself – but like most coming-of-age stories, there is real development happening and I appreciated being witness to Hannah’s.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Patron Saints of Nothing – Randy Ribay

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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: PRH Canada
Published: June 2019
Publisher: Kokila
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Family, Coming of Age, Culture


REVIEW:

This felt like a familiar tale in the beginning. Someone close to the main character dies and the main character is angry and seeks justice. Except in this case the tragedy happens in the Philippines, far away from the protagonist, and Jay is reluctant to accept the events that lead to the death of his cousin so he travels to the Philippines in order to find out the truth his family is potentially hiding from him. Continue reading

Tell Me How You Really Feel – Aminah Mae Safi

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Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: June 11th, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Filmmaking, Coming of Age, Family Dynamics, Enemies to Lovers


REVIEW:

This is a decent enemies-to-lovers story. I say ‘‘decent’’ because so many so-called love/hate relationships are so… tame. There’s no real hate, just annoyance. There’s also no real reason to hate the other person, just mild disagreements. But what I liked about this book is that it shows how two people—in this case two teen girls—can misjudge one another completely, assuming they have nothing in common and no way to connect, only to find themselves being drawn to one another almost unconsciously. Continue reading

Blog Tour: Birthday – Meredith Russo

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Birthday by Meredith Russo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: May 21st, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fiction, Transgenderism, Coming of Age, Friendship, Romance, High School, Family


REVIEW:

Three years ago, I read Meredith Russo’s debut – If I Was Your Girl – and I enjoyed it, but I could not have predicted it becoming a bestseller and award-winning novel, because although I found it sweet and meaningful, it was not a page-turner for me. Birthday is very different from her debut, so different that I feel a switch was made in the author’s mind or she wanted to tell a heart-breaking story instead of a mainly heart-blossoming one. Continue reading

Normal People – Sally Rooney

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Normal People by Sally Rooney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: April 16th, 2019
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Literary Fiction, Romance, College, Coming of Age, Bullying, Popularity


REVIEW:

This book did not affect me in the same way it seems to have affected other people. It did not make me angry, or sad, and did not move me, really. That is because I never cared for Marianne or Connell. Sometimes I even hated them. Usually, I do. Usually, I care about the protagonists I read about, especially when they show their vulnerabilities to me. And I did enjoy reading about this on-and-off (almost) couple. Because they are so, so humanly flawed. But they are not exactly likeable. Continue reading

I Wanna Be Where You Are – Kristina Forest

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I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: June 4th, 2019
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Road Trip, Romance, Coming of Age


REVIEW:

Isn’t the cover just lovely? It makes me think that it wouldn’t be so bad living in a 2D world if everything looked so soft and colourful. Still, let’s keep it 3D for now.

This is a decent story. It is fairly short and well-paced so it will most definitely not feel like a chore to read. I don’t always ask my reads to amaze me, I understand that every story is different and we’re all drawn to distinct things. But I do ask my reads to think of me sometimes, as in EXPLAIN what’s happening in a way that I can understand. Continue reading

Five Feet Apart – Rachael Lippincott

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Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Simon & Schuster Canada
Published: 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age, Illness, Family


REVIEW:

This was my first romance novel in… months. I couldn’t bring myself to read a story that focused heavily on a boy and a girl falling in love for a long time.

That’s what happens when there is boy drama (and its aftershocks) in my life. I needed to step away from romance and focus on other things or my mind would keep wandering to that one boy with whom I really (mistakenly) believed something might happen. Continue reading

Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life

Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna & Barbara Bush

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: October 24th, 2017
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Nonfiction, Memoir, Family, Siblings, Sisterhood, Coming of Age


REVIEW:

This is what I like to read about: Family members loving each other and caring about each other and being there for each other. It simply warms my heart. You often see ‘‘perfect’’ families in movies, and it’s true no such thing exists, but you can have glorious bonds with those you are related to, that I am sure of. Continue reading