ARC Review: The Best Possible Answer

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Release Date: November 1, 2016

Did I enjoy this book? The best possible answer is… yes!

In the Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras, Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe is known for her academic achievements until her ex-boyfriend sends personal photos of her around the school and her family unravels. To combat her constant anxiety and panic attacks, the doctor recommends a stress-free summer. Viviana trades in her SAT prep books for a summer pool job where no one knows anything about her. While Viviana adjusts to her newfound freedom, she also discovers a shocking secret that could tear her family apart once and for all.

When I first read the description of The Best Possible Answer, it sounded like it had the makings of a classic Sarah Dessen novel. While the book ended up not being exactly what I expected, I still really enjoyed this book. Even though some aspects of the book felt a little stereotypical or undeveloped, it also packed an emotion punch and realistically portrayed family relationships.

First, I’ll start with the characters. I liked Viviana, but she definitely isn’t one of my favorite YA characters. Viviana reminded me of many other contemporary female protagonists, so she didn’t really come across as particularly unique. However, I appreciated the Viviana acted like a seventeen-year-old–she acted brashly and often made bad decisions–and her actions carried the plot along. Overall, she is a likable and relatable character even though she doesn’t stand out among female protagonists.

Like Viviana, I liked the secondary characters, but many of them didn’t really stand out or were very underdeveloped. I liked Viviana’s friendship with her best friend, but for the majority of the book it seemed like her best friend was only relevant to cause tension between Viviana and her love interest, Evan. Her sister, Mila, was the cute and sometimes comedic little sister. Professor Cox was the strange character who spouted off random bouts of wisdom. The remaining characters only served to point out that Evan loved Viviana.

Viviana’s relationship was also fairly standard for YA contemporaries. Viviana’s relationship with Evan was extremely underdeveloped and he embodied the stereotypical YA love interest. He was essentially perfect except for one “flaw,” which in this case was switching his major to music despite his father’s wishes. Even though it took awhile for them to get together, their relationship felt extremely rushed because they never actually got to know each other. Other characters constantly pointed out their connection, but I failed to see it through their few interactions.

For the plot, I mostly have positives, but only one negative. I assumed from the summary that the photo scandal would have a larger impact on the story. It did impact Viviana as a character–along with her father, it made her wary of forming new relationships–but in the end it only was used for last second drama to keep Viviana and Evan away from each other longer.

While these problems initially worried me that I would rate this as an okay read, the middle and end of the book really impressed me. One of the most well done parts of this book is Viviana’s relationship with her family and discovering the truth about her father. I especially appreciated Viviana’s relationship with her mother and how it grew towards the end of the book and how her relationship with her father deteriorated based on the choices that they made. The author very realistically portrayed family dynamics and how one person’s choices can lead to a lifetime of consequences.

I also really enjoyed the author’s writing style. It was very smooth to read and packed an emotional punch. I also appreciated the details before each chapter which included a fake SAT questions about Viviana’s life, an essay question that provided backstory, or a preparation tip that related to the next chapter.

Even though the characters didn’t stand out for me, I really enjoyed the family dynamics and writing style of The Best Possible Answer, so I give this book four out of five stars.

I recieved The Best Possible Answer from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

 

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ARC Review: Stealing Snow

stealing snow

If you are in need of a Frozen fix, don’t let it go… pick up Danielle Paige’s newest book, Stealing Snow.

Stealing Snow follows seventeen-year-old Snow who has spent most of her life at a mental institution due to her uncontrollable anger. After several mysterious dreams and a strange encounter with another resident, Snow suspects that their may be more to her anger. When Bale, the love of her life and fellow Whittaker Institute resident, disappears, Snow escapes to Algid, her true home, to rescue him. Once in Algid, Snow must learn to control her newly discovered powers to fulfill the prophecy and take down her ruthless father.

In its description, Stealing Snow is described as a “Maleficent-esque twist on The Snow Queen, from the ‘villain’s’ point of view that’s equal parts love story and Frozen.” At first, I was afraid that this story would rely too heavily on the Frozen hype, but I appreciate that the author created a unique retelling of the story. That being said, I still have mixed feelings towards this book.

First, I’ll start with the cons. One of the largest issues I had with this book was the main character, Snow, who I didn’t care for until the very end of the book. Snow is extremely stubborn to the point where she refuses to acknowledge her powers even after she experiences them multiple times. Also, Snow’s emotions and choices never felt real or believable to me. She hated someone, but then loved them the next second. She knew the right decision, but always made the wrong one for seemingly no reason at all. Also, everything came back to Bale, even if she was on the brink of death.

I also had problems with several other characters in the novel, namely the love square. Yes, Snow doesn’t have just two, but three love interests. Since there are so many, and they all come across as a bit stereotypical, it was hard to root for any of them.

First, there’s Bale, aka “the guy with history.” However, there are so few flashbacks with Bale that you never get to know him and constantly wonder why Snow brings him up at least two times on every page. Also, in one of the few flashbacks we do see, Bale actually injures Snow. This event has different implication that what readers initially see, but I think it will definitely disturb readers how Snow romanticizes him.

Then, we have Kai, aka “the good guy.” Kai’s the type of guy that the protagonist initially hates, but then sees without his shirt off and realizes that he is actually pretty nice (even though he basically said they should have let Snow to die). I felt like the feelings between Kai and Snow pop out of nowhere, much like Kai himself. Kai appears at the beginning of the book briefly and pops up at the end, so you don’t really get to know him. 

Then, there’s Jagger, “the bad boy with the heart of gold.” Jagger is a Robber, a group of girls (plus him) who steal magic and want to take down the king. I liked Jagger, but I still felt like there wasn’t enough depth with his character. I have a feeling his character will be more fleshed out later in the series, but even a glimpse would have added so much to his character. Also, (minor spoiler) Jagger uses magic to hijack Snow’s dreams, which I found kind of creepy (end spoiler). This isn’t surprising that Snow is attracted to him though considering the behavior of her other love interests.

Another problem I had with this book was the plot. The River Witch part moved so slow and even though it may impact the plot later in the series, it felt so out of place and irrelevant in this book. It’s main purpose seemed to relay background information, which could have been incorporated in a different way. I liked the Robbers section better, but this also felt out of place, like it belonged in another fairy tale. As a result, the final section of this book felt incredibly short and rushed, even though it was the most interesting and exciting.

Another aspect of Stealing Snow that could be improved was the world building. I had a difficult time picturing many of the people and places in this book. I also felt like some parts of the story relied too heavily on magic–one character just happened to have a power or potion that solved the problem easily. Also, the whole Enforcer subplot fell flat to me after I learned its true purpose, which seemed only to propel a member of the love square. Some parts of the book also relied on tropes. For example, Jagger refers to Snow and Bale as being imprinted on each other and even references Twilight after mentioning it. This caused the world building also to come across as unbelievable at times, for example, when a character who never ventured outside of Algid referenced The Bachelor.

Even though I had several issues with this books, there were several aspects that I enjoyed, most of which occurred in the last fifty pages. First, are the plot twists. Usually, I am good at predicting different plot twists in books, but some of the twists in this book took me by surprise. I also feel that several of the plot twists were very unique. Even though some of the plot twists felt like relaying information than discovering them, I still really liked them.

The battle at the end was also very well written. There was so much action, I couldn’t put the book down! I also really enjoyed seeing several of the characters grow, especially the Robbers. I also started feeling more invested in Snow and her story, which makes me want to continue the series. Even Bale became a stronger contender in the love square for me. I only wish that more of the tension and action in the last quarter of the book spanned throughout the entire book.

Since I really loved the ending of the book, but felt like many characters, the plot, and world building could be improved, I rate this book three out of four stars.

 

ARC Review: Judy Moody and the Bucket List

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Release Date: August 2, 2016

Judy Moody’s infamous moods will never kick the bucket.

In the thirteenth book in the popular series by Megan McDonald, Judy Moody gets a double rare idea from her Grandma Lou. She creates a bucket list of everything that she hopes to accomplish before starting fourth grade. From doing a cartwheel to visiting Antarctica (even though she only has a little over $30), Judy sets off on another moody adventure.

Just last week I read my favorite book in the entire Judy Moody series, Judy Moody Declares Independence. I loved that addition to the series because although Judy kept true to her personality, she also grew as a character and became more responsible. I actually rated that book five out of five stars. Unfortunately, this book received a lower rating from me for several reasons.

First off, I was disappointed to see that all the maturity Judy gained seemed non-existent until the very end of this book. Earlier in the series, Judy committed herself to always brushing her hair, completing her household chores, and even being nice to her younger brother. In The Bucket List, Judy demanded even more allowance even though she invented a hairbrush that didn’t actually brush her hair, neglected her daily chores, and was unnecessarily mean to her younger brother.

I also felt that the plot was very disjointed. It reminded me a lot of The NOT Bummer Summer book where Judy is checking off a list to compete with her friends. Everything Judy did related to her list, but none of the things she did every came off as very exciting like it they did in The NOT Bummer Summer. Yes, Judy Moody is meant to have moods, but she whined about everything in this book which ruined all of her experiences and the reader’s experience as well.

Another disappointment with this book were the side characters. I was fine with old favorites just having cameos since they really didn’t have any significance in this particular story. However, it seemed characters like the future dog owner and her father’s back story were just thrown in and loosely moved the story along.

Even though I did have a few negatives, I also enjoyed a couple aspects of this story. Even though I wish we saw Grandma Lou more in the story, I really liked seeing Judy’s relationship with someone else in her family. I think a lot of children would relate to how Judy felt about her grandmother. Also, we get to see a more sympathetic side of Judy with her grandmother. In the end, Judy makes a selfless decision, which is double rare for her, to help her grandmother achieve a dream.

While I thought this book was okay, it is definitely not my favorite in the Judy Moody series. Since I liked Judy’s relationship with her grandmother, but felt the character growth, plot, and side characters were lacking, I give this book three out of five stars.

I received Judy Moody and the Bucket List from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.