Candy Book Tag

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Since Halloween is tonight, it is the perfect time to complete The Candy Book Tag! The Candy Book Tag was created by Samantha at Bookish Serendipity (let me know if you can find the link to her site!). Here are my answers:

  • Apples: Ah, healthy food. It’s deep, meaningful, probably won a lot of awards. But, um, it really isn’t your thing.

Louisiana's Way Home

Kate DiCamillo has won many awards. However, every time I try to read one of her books, I either can’t finish it or struggle to finish it because I just don’t gel with her writing style. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s way home was no exception. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character in this book and I was not a huge fan of the plot either.

  • Milk Chocolate: It is a book you recommend to EVERYONE.

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

The Cruel Prince was an okay read for me, but the second book in this series has made me recommend this series to several people! There are way more twists and turns in this book which kept me engaged the whole time that I was reading.

  • Black Jellybeans: Why do these exist?

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

This book was a major let down for me. Although it claims to be about Rowley, it focuses on Greg for 90% of the book. Why wasn’t this just another Diary of a Wimpy Kid book? I am still confused about the direction of this book.

  • Chocolate Kisses: Aw, the best romance.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)

The Bride Test has been one of my most enjoyable books of the year. I really liked the relationship between Esme and Khai and much preferred it to the first couple featured in this companion series.

  • Gummy Spiders: Eek! You make sure to check under your bed every night after reading this scary one.

Sadie

The scariest part of this book is how this story could actually happen.

  • Jumbo Lollipop: This took you forever to get through, but hey! You did it!

Daisy Jones & The Six

I really liked Dasy Jones and the Six, but it took me a long time to read. I also felt really under pressure because I only had a few hours left of my loan from my library’s e-book section which made it feel like an even bigger book.

  • Cotton Candy: Admit it, you loved it when you were younger (you probably still do). Think children’s or MG fiction.

Holes (Holes, #1)

I recently read Holes and I can see why it is such a favorite for students in elementary school!

 

What is your favorite candy?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that I Would Give Different Titles

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is changing the titles of books. Here are my choices:

  • A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)

When I saw the title of the newest book in The Hunger Games, I was slightly disappointed. I’m sure the title will have a lot of meaning with the new story, however, I find it similar to so many books currently on the YA market right now. The Hunger Games was a stand-out book, not just in YA but in popular culture, in this title just does not come across as punch or iconic as the original.

  • Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

I think I don’t like this title because it is very misleading. From this title, you would gather that this book is a spin-off of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. However, this book focuses way more on Greg than it does on Rowley. As a result, I was extremely disappointed after reading this book. I feel like this should have either been added to the original series or scrapped completely to focus more on Rowley.

  • How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Carole Kozzo

How To Keep Rolling After a Fall

Not going to lie, if I hadn’t read a book by Carole Kozzo that I enjoyed before this, I probably would have never picked up this one based on the title alone. When I read this title, I cringed. This book mainly focuses on Nikki Baylor, a girl ostracized from her peers after she shares personal photos of another girl in her class as revenge. In the story, Nikki meets Pax, a rugby player who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed, and they develop a relationship. I am not someone in a wheelchair, but I could see how this title could be considered offensive since it makes a pun on a character’s disability. Additionally, the book focuses more on Nikki, so it comes across as more related to her storyline, negative choices as the result of toxic friendships, which is nowhere comparable to Pax, who became paralyzed after an accident.

  • How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love

I think that I do not like this title because I feel like it does not match the book very well. While the title could be representative of the main character’s relationship with her daughter, it makes me think more about her relationship with one of the love interest’s in this book which I did not enjoy.

  • From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with Love

I think the title of this book plays well with the letters featured in this book that Twinkle writes. That being said, I did not really care for the letters in this book because I felt that they did add much to the story. As a result, the title makes me think of one of the weaker parts of this book which gives me negative feelings whenever I think about it.

  • Textrovert by Lindsey Summers

Textrovert

I am a huge fan of plays on words, but this one just feels a little awkward. I think the original title of this story was The Cell Phone Swap which I prefer much more than this title.

  • Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt

A Date with Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends, #1)

I received an eARC of this book and at the time, the title was just Bookish Boyfriends. I thought it was a cute title and it was one of my motivating factors for requesting this book on NetGalley. However, this book turned into a companion series. Now, there seems to be a lot of text on the cover. While I do like alliterations, there is just a lot going on. I would have preferred if this book kept the initial title.

  • Royce Rolls by Margaret Stoll

Royce Rolls

Like some other titles on this list, I like the play on words of this title. On the other hand, this title is a bit of a tongue twister for me! While I think this title does suit this book, I’m glad I’m a book blogger and not a Booktuber because I would definitely struggle to pronounce this one camera!

  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)

I like how this book follows the theme of this series and references letters. However, this title reminds me of what I felt about this book: not my favorite in the series and a little generic.

  • The Winner’s Crime and The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)

I really enjoy this series, but the last two titles aren’t my favorites. It is very common in YA books, especially fantasy series, to have similar wording in the titles. However, the last two titles are not as nearly as clever as the first. The Winner’s Kiss is especially cringe-worthy to me and I feel like it does not accurately reflect the last book, which has one of the most well-done war-focused plot lines that I’ve seen in YA.

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang Review

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This book receives an A+ from me.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang is a companion novel to The Kiss QThe Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)uotient which follows supporting character Khai Diep. Khai’s mother wants to marry off her son, so she flies to Ho Chi Mihn City to find his bride. There she discovers Esme Tran, a bubbly maid, who agrees to fly to America and seduce Khai in order to secure a better life for her daughter.

For me, The Kiss Quotient was only an average read. For me, the characters lacked the depth that I needed to truly believe in their relationship. As a result, I was not sure if I would really enjoy the second book in this companion series. However, I ended up enjoying The Bride Test much more than The Kiss Quotient because it contained all of the aspects that I wanted to see in The Kiss Quotient.

For me, the stand-out aspect of this book were the two main characters, Esme and Khai. Unlike with The Kiss Quotient, I found that Esme and Khai were completely fleshed out. All of their actions drove the story and made so much sense because of how much you know about their characters. I feel like the author’s research played a large role in this aspect of this story. In the author’s note, Hoang mentions that her mother and father’s relationship greatly influenced this story because their lives reflect many aspects of the two main characters. As a result, I feel like readers can connect more with the characters in this book than the Kiss Quotient.

There is only one complaint that I had while reading this story. There were some aspects of this book, such as Esme’s child, which were hinted at the beginning of the story to be major roadblocks. However, I felt like any instance that was foreshadowed never played a large role in the story. While this usually would annoy me in a story, I actually found the problems that the characters face throughout the novel more true to their characters, so it never really took anything away from the story for me.

Overall, I really loved The Bride Test and could see it appearing on a favorites list at the end of the year. This book makes me excited to read the next book in this companion series, The Heart Principle, which releases next year. I give The Bride Test five out of five stars.

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Just Jaime by Terri Libenson Review

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Unfortunately, Just Jaime was just average for me.

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson is a middle-grade graphic novel that follows Jaime and Maya, two friends at odds before summer vacation. Ever since Jaime and Maya befriended two new girls at the start of middle school, Jaime notices her best friend get pulled further and further away by the leader of the pack who frequently puts down Jaime. Maya wants the popularity that her new friends offer, however, she struggles to determine if that popularity is more important than her friend Jaime.

I saw Just Jaime available within my library’s e-books. I read Real Friends by Shannon Hale earlier this year and the plot of this book sounded extremely similar despite taking place in different time periods (Real Friends is a memoir of Hale’s experience in middle school and Just Jaime is a fiction story that takes place in the present). Since these stories were so similar, I constantly found myself comparing the two graphic novels. Sadly for Just Jaime, I enjoyed the other story a little bit more.

One aspect of Just Jaime that I enjoyed were the two perspectives, which was not present in Real Friends. In Just Jaime, you get to see the story from Jaime and Maya. I think this helped stray away from the typical mean girl trope often present in children’s books targeted towards girls because readers get to see the peer pressure that Maya faces. While Maya’s actions may not be the best, readers can sympathize more with her character.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was its reflection of real life. I think many readers will relate to Jaime and Maya. Many of the situations presented in this book, like ending friendships through text, would be very relatable to the target audience of this book. While I think Real Friends captured my attention and captivated the emotions surrounding friend breakups better, I think the modern setting would be more relatable to the book’s target audience.

While there were several aspects of this book that I enjoyed, there were several places where this book fell flat for me. Even though the events in this book were relatable, they were not fleshed out enough for me to really feel the emotions of the main characters. While the character’s actions did play a large role in the book, I mostly remember a string of events than the characters themselves. Additionally, I felt like the problems in this book were resolved too quickly. Also, I was not the biggest fan of this particular art style, however, that is more of personal preference.

Overall, Just Jaime was an average read for me. Maybe if I hadn’t read Real Friends earlier in this year, which is extremely similar in plot and message, I would have enjoyed this one a little bit more. I give Just Jaime three out of five stars.

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June Reading Wrap-Up

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Whew! I haven’t posted a monthly reading wrap-up since February! Since it’s been awhile, I will update you on everything I have read since March until June. Here’s what I read (any book with a review will be linked to the book’s title):

Serious Moonlight

There's Something About Sweetie

Call It What You Want

Shuffle, Repeat

Internet Famous

  • As Kismet Would Have It by Sandhya Menon (★ ★ ★)

As Kismet Would Have It

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

Holes (Holes, #1)

  • Lousiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (★ ★ ★)

Louisiana's Way Home

  • Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney (★ ★ ★)

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (★ ★ ★ ★)

On the Come Up

  • The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (★ ★ ★ ★)

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (★ ★ ★ ★)

Counting by 7s

  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

Real Friends

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ARC Review: Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

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Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer follows Rob, a high school student whose popularity takes a nose-dive after his father is caught embezzling money, and Maegan, an overachiever whose cheating on the SATs jeopardized the scores of her classmates. Rob and Maegan’s worlds collide when they are partnered on a calculus project and they instantly connect over their complicated family dynamics. However, Rob’s aCall It What You Wantttempts to right his father’s wrongs may land them in hot water.

I became a huge fan of Brigid Kemmerer after reading Letters to the Lost last year. She turned into an auto-buy author to me after reading More Than We Can Tell soon after. While I typically stick to more light-hearted and fun contemporaries, I loved her ability to craft complex characters in heartbreaking, but incredibly real circumstances. While Call It What You Want attempted to check off those boxes, it was not as successful as her two previous contemporaries for me.

Brigid Kemmerer’s books always put you inside the heads of two characters. Even in books of her that were five stars for me, one character tends to outshine the other. In this case, I definitely enjoyed reading more about Rob than Maegan. Besides her SAT cheating scandal, which really did not make much sense to me and affected the plot very little, Maegan was the typical good girl that we see in YA frequently. On the other hand, Rob was portrayed a lot more complexly. Rob struggled to match his perfect father to the crimes that he committed and his father’s current state after a failed suicide attempt. Despite despising his father’s actions, he starts to become like his father by stealing money although for much more “positive” reasons in order to correct his father’s wrongs. While Kemmerer’s novels typically are unbalanced with the main characters, I found the balance to be a little more off than usual.

For me, one reason I tend to stray away from “heavy-hitting” YA books is the fine line between really big, real-world problems and what I call the Lifetime Effect. With the Lifetime Effect, there is some big scandal that bends the entire truth of the novel and there is often somewhat resolved, but not quite enough to make you satisfied enough at the end. Also, it brings out all the stops, or tropes, for a dramatic story. While Brigid Kemmerer’s novels always have that bend in the truth ending and tackle a lot of high stakes problems, it usually stays realistic enough for me to buy in the story. In fact, that was my favorite aspect in More Than We Can Tell and Rev’s characters.

Unfortunately for me, this particular story ventured into the Lifetime Effect. Now, I’m not bashing Lifetime movies in any way. Trust me, my mom is a HUGE fan and I’ve seen countless Lifetime movies over the years. Some were good and I remember them to this day, but some leave you with the feeling like “You’ve got to be kidding me.” In this book, you can spot the twists from a mile away. There is literally so much going on in this story from the embezzlement, Rob stealing, Maegan cheating, a pregnant sister on a lacrosse scholarship, a policeman father, the rich villain, and the list could go on an on. While having quite a few plots worked in other books by Kemmerer, it just all didn’t connect or gel well with me in this book.

While I have mentioned quite a few negatives, there were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed. In the synopsis of this book, it poses this question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons? A lot of the characters in this book are morally gray. They commit awful or questionable actions, sometimes in an attempt to do good. While I won’t spoil how this book answers the question, I do like when you can see how a book relates to a larger theme. While I do think this novel tries to tackle way too many things at once, at its core, we have seen stories that relate to this theme play out so many times in our lives. If you can look past some of the “extra” elements, then I think many people could relate to this story.

Overall, Call It What You Want was an average young adult book for me. Despite Kemmerer’s on-point pacing and relatable theme, I just could not connect to the characters or this story. That being said, I still really like this author and will continue to purchase and read her books in the future, especially when I’m looking for a “heavier” contemporary read. I give this book three out of five stars.

 

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Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein Review

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Unfortunately, this book did not hit all the right notes for me.

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein follows high school senior June who hitches a ride with a family friend’s son on the way to school every day. After a few awkward interactions, June and Oliver decide to play music on the way to school to fill the silence. The deal? June adds a song every time that she convinces Oliver that high school does not matter, but Oliver adds a song to the playlist every time he convinces June otherwise.

I was interested in Shuffle, Repeat because the plot sounded like a cute contemporary. The music sharing part of the story reminded me of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, which is my favorite YA contemporary book. However, this book failed to meet several of my expectations and came across as another bland, standard YA contemporary to me.

I think my biggest issue in this book was the main character, June. This main character definitely suffers from not-like-other-girls syndrome. Even though she berates high school for its hierarchy, she is the one who stereotypes all of the other characters in this book. For example, she is surprised whenever Oliver uses advanced vocabulary because she believes she is much smarter than him because he plays football. While June does develop friendships with people outside her clique as the story progresses, her maturity never reaches that point as she expresses many of those same stereotypes (like her surprise at Oliver’s intelligence) through the end of the book. I never connected with June because not only did her voice feel inauthentic for a high school student, but her actions rarely matched what she preached. Here a few quotes that highlight June’s inauthenticity and inconsistencies for me:

Belatedly, I remember that Oliver might not follow my advanced vocabulary, and I dial it back so he’ll understand. “It’s too much.”

“Underneath?” I practically explode. “There’s nothing underneath. Your music is overly produced and overly cliché!” I point a finger at him. “It totally makes sense.” “How’s that?” Oliver still doesn’t seem mad. Only amused. “That you would be into that. It’s manufactured and it’s fake!”

It’s not because we’re geeks and it’s not because we buy into some sort of outdated hierarchy of popularity.” “I never said—” “It’s because we’re better than it.”

“You’re kind of like an extra gay boyfriend, except you’re straight.” Oliver frowns. “Or I can be your straight guy friend…since that’s what I actually am.” “It’s just that it so rarely works.”

As for the other characters in the novel, they are not developed past the stereotypes in which June describes them. Besides the love interest, Oliver, which the most complex and interesting character in the novel, the rest of the characters missed the mark. I do not like leaving a book where I can summarize a character with one word or trope. However, that’s how I can describe most of June’s acquaintances in this story. There’s Theo, the dumb and sexist jock. There’s Ainsley, who while I had high hopes that the author would change the conniving cheerleader stereotype, fulfilled that role by the end of the novel. There’s Itch (yes, that really was his name), with the same “nothing matters” philosophy as June. Finally, there are June’s other friends only known for their respective sexualities. It confused me that a book that sought to dismantle many high school stereotypes actually managed to reinforce every single one.

As for the plot, the story plays out like many other young adult books that I’ve read. However, this book was not as successful for me. While this is an easy read that you can finish in one day, you have probably read this story and enjoyed it more in another book. Since this book is based on supporting or refuting the importance of the high school experience, you get a loose connection of football games, senior pranks, and proms. I think in a few months I will probably forget a lot about this book.

Overall, Shuffle, Repeat is an easy and quick read. If you really enjoy contemporary, this may be a book to check out. However, I would skip this one if contemporary really isn’t your thing because it probably contains all the tropes you like to avoid in the genre. I give this book two out of four stars.

 

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Internet Famous by Danika Stone Review

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This book was a #fail for me.

Internet Famous by Danika Stone follows Tumblr-esque blogger Madison “Madi” Nakama during her senior year of high school. When her mom leaves for a professor job out of town, Madi must learn to balance her blog, her senior project, and her sister’s schedule. Her world is further rocked when an online troll threatens her life on and offline.

I was interested in reading Internet Famous because I like reading books that tackle young people’s lives online compared to real life. Unfortunately for me, this book did not meet my expectations in terms of plot or characters. Overall, I had a difficult time reading this book and struggle to find a way to recommend it to other readers.

My largest issue with this book resides in the main character, Madi. Although Madi is a high school senior, her selfish and ego-centric attitude makes her appear much younger. This caused me to disconnect from her and her story completely. To the nail in the coffin for me was Madi’s blatant disrespect for authority. She handles herself inappropriately when educators point out that she does not follow rules or guidelines on her project. When asked for her identification in the school hallway (mind you, Madi does online school so every teacher may not know what she looks like in person since they do not physically see her every day), Madi’s response is extremely rude. This disrespect escalates when Madi’s project (her blog) is disqualified from her senior project because she monetized it and allowed guest posts on her blog. This leads Madi on a tirade that this teacher hates her and she is too much of a stickler for rules, when in actuality, Madi did not follow the requirements for her project. When faced with the same issue later in the novel, Madi never shows any growth in maturity. In fact, she screams in a library at the teacher, swears at the teacher, and then runs away when the teacher asks her to go to the principal’s office. Below are a few quotes from the book that best showcase Madi’s character:

“The woman’s eyes narrowed behind thick glasses. She pulled a pen from one jacket pocket, a small pad of paper from the other. “What’s the name of your sister? I need to check into this. There’s a protocol for pickups, you know. The school can’t just have anyone wandering in off the street.” The way she said anyone riled Madi. “It’s Sarah,” she said. “Now may I ask your name, ma’am? Because every teacher in this school knows I pick up Sarah from school. I’ve done it every day for the last two years.”

(in reference to her mom’s job) “Funny, u would expect a mother to be at home with her kids”

“You’d better start a rewrite,” Mrs. Preet said seriously. “The end of the year is only three weeks away and you have a semester-long assignment to redo.” “But I have final exams! I can’t just drop everything and redo my whole blog. Can’t you make an exception?” Mrs. Preet crossed her arms. “I can’t and I won’t. Doing that would make it unfair for every other student in this school.”

(after her father finds out she lied about her school project) “The Wi-Fi code is changing the minute we get back to the house. You can use your computer for submitting homework—I’ll type the code in when you need to send in your projects—but no other fooling around online until Mrs. Preet tells me you’ve passed that course.” “But you can’t just take away the Wi-Fi! That’s not fair!”

The other characters fared no better. From the love interest to they villain, they all embodied stereotypical characteristics. Like Madi, they lacked depth for readers to care about them or their importance to the story. Laurent, Madi’s love interest, is completely perfect. He’s the HoTtEsT bOy EvEr with his French accent (which is used as cheesily and unauthentically as possible throughout the novel) and forgives Madi quickly after she accuses him of horrific events that happen in the novel. Her teacher is the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for holding her to the same expectations as any other student. The villain, barely present in the book, only spouted the same phrases over and over. Basically, you’ve seen all of these underdeveloped characters at least a dozen times. Below are a few quotes pertaining to these characters:

I also cringed at how Madi solved the “case of the troll” and thought it promoted ineffective problem-solving strategies for teenagers who read this book and come across cyberbullying.  When Madi receives threatening comments, Madi responds impulsively which escalates the situation. After the police inform Madi that it may take months to locate the troll, she takes matters in her own hands in a way that places both herself and her sister in danger. These actions are applauded by other characters in the novel. While I am all for characters sticking up for themselves, I think the way this situation was handled was inappropriate and could encourage readers to put themselves in dangerous situations to “cancel” a troll.

As for the pacing and overall plot, this book struggled to keep me engaged. Between blog posts about 80s movies, multiple coffee dates, and internet trolls, I just could not find myself invested in any part of this story. I read this book over a span of several months because I could barely stay engaged. While I could have put this book down, I pushed through hoping for the story to change since I already finished a significant portion of the book.

To me, this book missed the mark on so many levels. I rarely rate books lower than two stars, but this is an exception. From the underdeveloped characters to the plot, nothing worked for me in this story. I give Internet Famous one out of five stars.

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April Reading Wrap-Up

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Unfortunately for me, April was not my strongest reading month. Since I focused a lot of my time and energy into Camp NaNoWriMo, there wasn’t much left for tackling my TBR. As a result, I am currently three books behind schedule to meet my yearly reading goal of 50 books. That being said, the two books that I did read this month motivated me to write some of my most detailed reviews yet. Look for those reviews within the next couple weeks! Here is what I read in April:

  • Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein (★ ★)

Shuffle, Repeat

While the plot intrigued me for this book and reminded me of one of my favorite young adult novels, it took a different direction than I expected which I did not really enjoy. I found the characters bland and stereotypical and the plot as nothing special for the genre.

  • Internet Famous by Danika Stone (★)

Internet Famous

The execution of this book failed on multiple levels for me. While I like reading about teenage characters with a large online presence, most of these characters came across as stereotypical, immature, or annoying. As a result, I was never invested in this story.

 

What were the best books that you read in April?

 

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