Binding of Bindings · Book Promo

Binding of Bindings # : 11 YA Contemporary Books That’ll Hurt

These are all heavy AF YA Contemporary stories that will hurt like hell, but need to be read.
This entire post comes with a trigger warning, and has elements of the following:
Abusesexual, domestic/physical, verbal, manipulation, control; Mental Healthbrain injuries, suicide, schizophrenia, anger/impulse control issues, Radical Religion, Kidnapping, Brainwashing, Incest (Yeah I know, it’s fine), Bullying, Self-harm, Attempted Murder, Survival, Death.
These are all beautiful and haunting books that have huge, unwavering voices.
Each book is packed with heavy material, and some may be hard to get through, but each has a powerful message of awareness, personal strength and vital information.
Please take care when you read and put the needs of yourself first.
This content can be triggering, so tread lightly.

 

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National Suicide Prevention/Crisis Hotline: 800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TEXT: LOVEIS to 22522
Domestic Violence Website: https://www.thehotline.org/

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Stay safe, strong and keep those heads up, you beautiful babes ❤

 

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~* 11 YA Contemporary Books That’ll Hurt *~

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1. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Abuse-Sexual/Self-Harm

The Way I Used To Be

When someone asks me for a book recommendation, it’s always this.

Always. Always. Always.

This.

The Way I Used to Be wrecked me beyond words.

I vividly remember the Friday night I started it, and every moment until the wee hours of Saturday morning where I sat on my floor in silence with tears running down my face.

This book hurt me more than any other YA Contemporary book I have ever read, and it’s because of how authentic, ugly and raw it is. It’s about how a girl copes with being raped at a party. The days, weeks and months after and what she does to herself and those around her in her grief and shame.

 

Amber Smith DOES NOT dress this shit up in a pretty bow and box. It’s a fucked up book of pure emotion, and it HAS to be at the top of your reading list.

You’ll be thanking me through your tears at 2am.

 

2. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Abuse-Domestic

Dreamland

My second most recommended book, and one of three sets of books that I read every year.

And I mean every year.

Dreamland is also the only Sarah Dessen book I really give two fondues about as well, probably due to the fact that it isn’t as “summery” and “sun-shiney” as the rest of her work.

It is about a girl named Caitlin who starts dating a guy named Rogerson. Rogerson is a total hottie package. Tall and mysterious, a bit brooding, quiet with an intense stare that strips you raw.

You know the type.

The kind you’d let do some truly awful shit to you, just to get those little moments of pure and intense snippets of “trueunaffected love.

Dreamland is painful and complicated. It shows the intricacies of an abusive relationship, of how easy it can be to stay in one, and how confusing it is when your emotions are wrapped up so tightly.

It’s a book EVERY girl should read as a pre-teen.

Know your worth.

 

 

3. A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmal
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Mental-Health

A Danger to Herself and Others

If you’d like to be completely mind-fucked while you cry, then A Danger to Herself and Others is for you.

This book got me HOOKED on Alyssa B. Sheinmel.

I don’t care what this woman writes, I will read it all. Everything, all of it, forever, until I die.

Her ability to familiarize the reader with Mental Health and show it in a dauntingly close-up, yet sincere and tender way, is true beauty. She can give you insight to the confusion and insanity that is somehow so precious and striking.

A Danger to Herself and Others is about a young woman named Hannah who is institutionalized after an accident involving her roommate at a summer program. Hannah knows that her being there is just a formality and that they will realize soon that she is innocent, she just has to persuade the staff that she is fine.

But of course…that’s only the surface of this story.

And damn is it a deep story.

(See my review here)

 

4. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
Genre/Trigger: YA/Retelling/Feminism

“A Woman’s no can so easily be turned into a yes by men who do not want to listen.”

Not 100% contemporary, but it holds the same powerful punch as any of these other books do.

If you are looking for powerfully feminist reads, add Louise O’Neill to the top of your list and never look back.

This lady knows what she’s doing.

The Surface Breaks is a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid, and I am STILL shocked that this isn’t more well-known or praised.

It follows the tale we know fairly closely, but Louise has a way of highlighting all those little moments we seemed to ignore as kids.

This is not a sweet story of true love.

Our little mermaid is not surrounded by love, she is not gifted love, and she is treated in such a way that is…all too familiar to a lot of us. It is a tale of women not having a choice. Of women giving their voice up for love, and that choice being abused. It’s a story of possession, greed, pain and heartbreak.

“Either I am silent above the surface, or I spend the rest of my life screaming for mercy down here, the water muffling my cries.”

*sigh*

Just read it.

(See my review here)

 

5. The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Religion

The Liar's Daughter

“How does it feel? I want to ask. To have everything that’s precious to you taken away?”

In a perfect world, the publisher would not have given the entire plot and beauty of this story away in the description, but alas, they do not have my flare for dramatics and torturing suspense…or apparently any decency

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those books that you need to just read, without knowing much about the plot. In fact, it would have been 1000% better than the 100 times amazing it already is, if I had read it not knowing what it was about.

Therefore, humor me.

Please, do not look this plot up. Just trust me when I say, the book will blow you away.

It is about a girl who lives with her family on a compound in the forest. She adores her father and wishes to make him proud, to show how strong and capable she is, and her siblings bring her more joy than anything else. They all thrive in the wilderness away from societal distractions and obligations. They are happy.

Until she is taken from her family and brought to the home of a new family.

This story is about how Piper gets her bearings after being taken.

This. Writing. Is. Flawless.

The author makes the reader feel just as lost, scared, confused and distrustful of others as Piper is. It’s a mind jumble, an emotional roller-coaster and a creatively woven tale that will have you beyond hooked. You will both love and hate these characters, trust them and be suspicious of them.

It, is wild.

(Do not read my review, just read the book)

 

6. How I live Now by Meg Rosoff
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Sci-Fi-Dystopian

How I live now

“I was dying, of course, but then we all are. Every day, in perfect increments.”

“Staying alive was what we did to pass the time.”

If you haven’t read this book, or seen this beautiful movie starring Saoirse Ronan and George Mackay, then you need to prioritize your life and get it together.

How I Live Now is a tale of survival, love and finding your way back home.

Daisy is fifteen and sent from the states to England to stay with her cousins for the Summer. Not soon after arriving, London is attacked and bombed, and a war begins. Suddenly the kids, now without adult supervision, have to figure out how to survive on their own.

This book is…wow.

It’s a realistically beautiful and frightening story of what it means to stay alive in a world that has flipped into chaos. These young people are wild, free, strong, thoughtful, sharp and inquisitive. They have unflinching grit and unwavering hearts, and they deal with some insanely heavy shit at such young ages.

So read the book, don’t get weirded out by the romanceit’s fine, basque in the brilliance, and then watch the movie.

Shed some tears, have a good Friday night in.

You’re welcome.

(See my review here)

 

7. The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Abuse-Manipulation/Sexual

The Places Ive cried in public

Alright, back to the really heavy shit.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public

Sounds cheery, doesn’t it?

This is a story about a girl who is beyond distraught over her breakup with a boy. We follow her as she lives in the present and visits each place around town where her ex-boyfriend had made her cry, which eventually builds up to the real reason of why they split.

This book is on this list because it will make you crazy upset, but mostly because of the form of abuse that is represented. A lot of times, deep manipulation and mental abuse aren’t represented in books as much as physical violence, even though it is just as common and accompanies domestic abuse.

 

Mental and Emotional Abuse isn’t talked about a lot, but Holly Bourne wanted to talk about it.

This book hit me so hard in the gut because of how painfully relatable and realistic it is. It feels like a legitimate and authentic account of emotional abuse, how conflicting your thoughts and feelings are towards your abuser, and how easy it is to tell yourself you’re overreacting.

 

8. Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Abuse-Physical/Domestic/Attempted Murder

Sparrow

“Affliction is enamored of thy parts, and thou art wedded to calamity”

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Sparrow is one of those delicate and fragile tales that sticks with you and makes you ache every time you think about it.

It poses the question of ‘Can you fight?‘ and if so, ‘how long?

Sparrow is about a girl named Savannah RoseSparrow. She is a ballerina with the death of her mother looming over her shoulders, even though years have passed. Sparrow was always taught to stay strong, to stay quiet, and to keep things to herself. But the growing aggression and physical nature from her boyfriend is growing, and one night, it goes too far.

Sparrow also has different forms of abuse represented, and they pack in punch in this eerily dark contemporary that is like Speak meets Black Swan.

I highlighted most of this book because damn do these sentences and descriptions cut into your soul. This story highlights how Sparrow’s unfortunate present connects with her childhood and the relationship she had with her mother.

This book dives deep into a dark hole of depression and sorrow, so please be mindful of your mental state before reading. But when you do feel ready, read this.

You might find some strength in it.

“‘What is the haunted name, the secret name of your deepest self?’

“And I answer, ‘Sorrow'”.

(See my review here)

 

9. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health-Brain Injury

The One Memory of Flora Banks

Let’s bring things up a little, shall we?

Here is a nice break from all this bleaknessThe One Memory of Flora Banks.

Now THIS, is a unique and creative story.

When Flora Banks was ten years old, the part of her brain that stores new memories was damaged during a surgery to remove a tumor. Now Flora has no short-term memory, and throughout the day her brain can resent itself multiple times. To cope, Flora has countless post-it notes in her bags to remind her of who she is, what she is doing and anything important that she wants to remember. She has writing all over her hands and arms and relies heavily on her best-friend and parents to help remind her of…everything.

But then Flora kisses her best-friends boyfriend, and miraculously, the memory sticks.

This book is epic.

There is immense adventure in these pages, with a representation of beautiful and kind souls littered throughout. It shines such a bright, happy and thoughtful light on Mental Health and the limitations that society puts on a person.

It is heartbreaking, yes, but it is one of the most rewarding YA Contemporaries I have read in a long time.

 

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Suicide/Bullying/Abuse-Sexual/Self-Harm/Mental Health

13

We’re almost there, stay with me.

Thirteen Reasons Why

I know there’s a show an all, but who cares about that.

This book took over my teenage life. Never had I experienced a story of this emotional magnitude and thought-provoking ingenuity, and I probably never will again. This should be required reading in EVERY. SINGLE. SCHOOL.

If you don’t know it, it’s about a girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide. Before her death, she records the events/reasons that lead up to her decision on cassette tapes, and then sends it off to the first person that contributed to the spiral.

Each tape has a reason or event, and each one focuses on someone in particular. The crazy part is that the tapes are sent to each person mentioned in them, and they are directed to send the tapes on to the person mentioned after them, or else a copy of the tapes will be leaked.

WILD.

Thirteen Reasons Why was my first taste of suicide in YA Contemporary, and it is one that I will never forget. The message is powerful, the events are beyond emotional and the concept in general is phenomenal.

 

11. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre/Trigger: YA/Contemporary/Abuse-Sexual/Bullying

This post wouldn’t be complete without Speak.

If you somehow haven’t read this book, you need to RIGHT NOW.

Melinda is a freshmen in high school and a complete outcast. She was popular and had a group of great friends, but that was before the end-of-summer party that she ruined by calling the cops. Speak slowly unravels what happened at that party that caused Melinda to call the cops, and how her school and home life has changed for her.

It’s a really deep and powerful story of rape and bullying, and the fear that young girls have to come forward and tell someone. You will cry, you will hurt, and all you’ll want to do is give Melinda a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay.

 

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As always, Stay Witchy and take care of yourselves

 

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Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases · Upcoming Releases

Book Review: The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer

The AntiVirginity Pact

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me via Netgalley for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Plot:

Preachers’ daughters aren’t supposed to be atheists. They’re also not supposed to make pacts to lose their virginity by the end of the year, but high school senior Meredith Beaumont is sick of letting other people tell her who to be.

Spending the last four years as Mute Mare, the girl so shy just thinking about boys could trigger panic attacks, Meredith knows exactly what it’s like to be invisible. But when a vindictive mean girl gets her manicured claws on the anti-virginity pact and spreads it around the school—with Mare’s signature at the bottom—Mare’s not so invisible anymore. She just wishes she was.

Now the girls mutter “slut” as they pass her in the hall, and the boys are lined up to help complete her checklist. When she meets a guy who knows nothing of the pact, their budding romance quickly transforms from a way to get her first time over with to a genuine connection. But when the pact threatens to destroy her new relationship and the fragile foundation of her seemingly perfect family, Mare has to decide what’s more important: fixing her reputation and pleasing her parents, or standing up for the person she wants to be.

Opinion:

“For the record, I don’t normally have a predisposition for making bad decisions.”

Cause girl,

yeah you do.

The Anti-Virginity Pact is a YA Contemporary about two senior girls who make a pact to lose their virginity before the end of high school. As the closet-atheist daughter of a preacher, Meredith’s anxiety has always made her shy and kept her in the shadows. Wanting to finally gain experiences, she and her best friend sign a contract to lose their virginity. But when the pact gets leaked and the entire school sees that Mute Mare signed it, she is suddenly descended upon by every guy in school who wants a turn.

This had so much potential to be an emotional, gut-wrenching, femi-empowering YA about familial expectations and self-exploration. It could have showcased the overwhelming guilt and obligation we feel to please our parents, and how our own wants and desires can be obliterated in doing so. Or put a blinding spotlight on rape culture, bullying and the endless double standards that exist in our society. Or the crippling fear and physical ailments that come with extreme anxiety. The panic, shortness of breath, feelings of drowning or being buried alive. The sheer peril that one experiences.

It had all the potential in the world to be deep, beautiful, raw and authentic.

But instead of my heartstrings being yanked and my tear ducts overflowing, I felt

not much of anything.

The Anti-Virginity Pact has a fairly slow start that continues until about halfway, where it switches gears drastically and becomes a book with zero direction. The first 55% actually wasn’t bad, even though the banter between Meredith and her best friend was a little eye-roll inducing, I was enjoying the slow buildup.

Meredith is a senior in high school and the daughter of a preacher. But for years, Mare had began rejecting the idea of religion and now considers herself an atheist, unbeknownst to her family. Due to growing up in a highly religious family and also having severe anxiety, Mare has always kept to herself – blending into the wallpaper and speaking to few people. So when her best friend Jo suggests a pact to lose their virginity by the end of high school, as a means to experience everything they missed out on (sex, parties, sports) she signs her name on the dotted line. And then the girls go about picking the lucky guys, and of course…

one of them HAS to be a teacher.

Honestly, this angle didn’t bother me that much, probably because of the countless YA Thrillers I’ve binged. But the execution of this trope was odd. It’s a lot of Jo swooning over their teacher and expressing plans on how to seduce him, Mare telling Jo it’s a horrible idea, and then Jo stomping her foot because Mare isn’t jumping for joy and celebrating her wanting to SEDUCE A TEACHER.

But honestly, this and Mare’s anxiety are about the most and only emotional follow-through in this entire book. Every time a BIG moment happened (because yeah, there’s a lot of them shoved in here) Mare and Jo just brush over it and move onto the next tragedy. Moments that would cause a person to break down in sobs, scream at the sky and start shattering things are let go with a “this is shitty or this sucks”, and thrown away. And it’s not like they are being brave or strong and can just handle what’s being thrown at them.

It’s that all that happens in this story are “hot topic explosions.

One explosion detonates, and before it can be dealt with or dissected, three more explosions go off, making it a ticking time-bomb of craziness that keeps falling from the sky in the most unrealistic way possible.

In a Middle Grade book, the story is set up to have the “and then, and then, and then” format to keep the young reader’s attention. That is exactly how this book is formatted. It’s a series of dramatic and controversial topics smashed together, without proper time and care being spent on each tragedy. Religion, bullying, sexuality, rape, anxiety, animal abuse, religious camps. It’s all here. But instead of each issue adding to the story or making an impact on the reader, it made it inauthentic and ridiculous. As if any detailed description and emotional focus would deter the author from checking off the mention of these “hot topic” issues.

I just couldn’t handle how Mare could experience crippling anxiety, and it being described in such a relatable and clear way, but then not having any strong reaction to the BIG situations that happen at the party, with Sam or with her parents. Mare’s life literally implodes, and instead of there being even a SINGLE moment of her having a reaction to it, her character is more concerned with talking to Sam about ignoring his phone calls.

Am I in 7th grade again?

But the WORST moment for me in this story, was the allude to a rape that…wasn’t a rape? Or…was it? I’m still not even sure. But the fact that I don’t even know, leaves such a bad taste in my mouth for how this was even done.

Firstly, it was ONE paragraph. And it wasn’t even a long paragraph. But I reread it about 15 times trying to figure out what actually happened, and honestly, I still have no idea. And with how the incident is then brought up, with Mare’s reaction to it being the same as if she was talking about what kind of sandwich she would like to have for lunch…well.

I just don’t even have words.

But just like every other moment of trauma in this story, the main character brushes it under the rug because I guess she’s just a robot.

Bottom line, don’t waste your time with this

1.5 Stars

 

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Binding of Bindings · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #42: March 2020 Book Wrap-up

I may be slightly behind in posting my March Book Wrap-up
…but come on. It’s practically the apocalypse around here.
So.

 

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~* March 2020 Book Wrap-Up *~

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1. Frozen Beauty by Lex Hillyer
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery

Frozen Beauty

Definitely not my most favorite read of March, but also not the worst.

Frozen Beauty had all the promise in the world to be a dreary and eerie, femi-powered contemporary mystery laced in sorrow and sadness. But instead it was just a bit…

It centers on the Malloy sisters and the strange and sudden death of the eldest, who is found half-naked and frozen to death. The sisters thought they knew everything about one another, but as they begin digging into what really happened… the secrets start to unravel. 

I wanted to love this, especially because of that cover art, but I just didn’t care for it much. I was able to get through it quickly and easily, but the characters just felt so BLAH. The ending was a bit predictable, and there was some weird/awkward insta-love that happened that I don’t even need to get into.

3 Stars

(See my review here)

 

2. All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

All Your Twisted Secrets

THIS BOOK!

WOW!

All Your Twisted Secrets is a YA blend of The Breakfast Club and Saw. Six teens are invited to a scholarship dinner in a banquet room, where they are locked inside. On the table are three items: a syringe filled with a liquid, a bomb with a countdown clock, and a note indicating that they must pick a person to killor they all die.

Yeah. I know.

But just when I thought I had this little beauty figured out

Oh yeah. Epic.

4.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

3. All the Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

All the Pretty Things

….

…there’s just not a lot to say here.

All the Pretty Things STARTED as a mystery set at an amusement park where an employee/well-known kid in town dies. It had a little bit of the Adventureland vibes that I was hoping for, but what it turned into was just…

…it’s not good.

If you like reading books where your face is scrunched up the whole time like this:

Then yeah, be my guest. And enjoy that father.

He’s a real gem.

2.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

4. Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Sparrow

Beautiful.

Sorrowful.

Stunning.

Sparrow is a YA twist on Black Swan that will surely cause tears to flow down your precious cheeks. It is about a ballerina who finds herself in an abusive relationship, and and shows the what lays broken on the ground after things go too far.

Books on abusive and manipulative behavior are so important and I am a big advocate for them, especially when they showcase different forms of abuse. But what makes this story truly important, is the fact that it doesn’t just show our main characters POV and how she is affected. It sheds light on the emotional toll it takes on her family, friends and those close to her.

It is beautiful, and though there were some parts that I found unnecessary to the story, it is a book worth reading.

4 Stars

(See my review here)

 

5. Girls with Sharp Sticks (Book 1) by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Girls with Sharp Sticks

I have been ranting about this AMAZING book for a year!

Every chance I get I am recommending it to my bookstagram girlfriends and begging them to read it! And since the sequel to it released in March, I decided to reread it to get a refresher before starting my ARC! Girls with Sharp Sticks is a YA Feminist tale with a twist that will blow your mind, while simultaneously making your heart rip itself apart because your feelings will be feeling FEELINGS.

It’s about a group of girls who attend Innovations Academy. Here they are bred to be obedient, to listen to the male figures in their life (because they know best) and to stay as beautiful as possible. If the girls misbehave, they are redirected and given therapy immediately, until they have been…realigned.

The story is about the girls waking up from their fog, and realizing that the place they are in does not have their best interests at heart.

5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

6. Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks, Book 1) by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Girls with Razor Hearts

I had SUCH high hopes for the second book to Girls with Sharp Sticks, and I devoured Girls with Razor Hearts in such a short time. But it wasn’t because it was amazing and held my attention to the point that I couldn’t eat or sleep without knowing what would happen.

No…it was more like I kept reading in the hopes that SOMETHING would happen. But nothing really did. It was just a bit of a blah read next to the first book where the author focused way too much on shoving toxic patriarchy down my throat. This sequel just felt like preaching. It felt forced and didn’t have the same flow and heart behind it’s message as it did before.

The story just lost its way a bit here, and I am hoping that it will come back around in the next book. This seemed more like a “buffer book” or a stepping stone to set up for the next installment, so fingers crossed that it improves!

3.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

7. Thorn (Dauntless Path, Book 1) by Intisar Khanani
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling – The Goose Girl

Thorn

THORN!

Ah, what a GEM of a retelling!

I know I’m not the only one that has been overjoyed with these countless fairy tale retellings coming out, so when I saw Thorn I knew I had to have it. And after reading Bloodleaf last year and not liking it, I was hoping that this Goose Girl retelling would be better.

And ohhhhhh child, it SO was!

You know the story: A Princess is married off to a Prince in another kingdom, and upon traveling there, her handmaid steals her body and poses as her, which forces the real Princess into a new life as a goose girl.

In this rendition, the same happens and so much more! The story keeps the atmospheric old-timey feel to it and spins in a layer of eeriness that perfectly blends with the poetic nature of the tale. It was a fantastic read and one I was fairly surprised by, because though I was hoping this would be a win, I had my doubts

But here I am, DYING for the next book!

4.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

8. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: New Adult/Fantasy/Romance

House of Earth and Blood

Only 60 pages in and SJM had me, and everyone else, like

And then we get a little farther and it’s a whole lot of

A ton of

And then back to

Beyond. Epic.

5 Stars

 

9. The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Genre: YA/Contemporary

All the Places Ivve Cried in Public

As I said above, a book that focuses on the several other types of abuse and manipulation that go on, are stories that need to be read.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public is in the style of Thirteen Reasons Why where a girl recounts the pivotal moments that lead to the end of her relationship with her boyfriend. They are all moments that she has cried, either from joy, despair, or confusion. But each place, and each moment is a clue into how they broke up and what happened between them.

This story was like a punch in the gut for me, because so many aspects of it were familiar or sparked a memory. For those of us who have experienced relationships like this, and for those who haven’t, the importance and reminder to look for signs of hurtful and manipulative behavior needs to be shown. This book does just that.

Every teenager needs to read this.

3.5 Stars

 

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Stay Witchy ❤

 

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Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson

Sparrow

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Tor teen, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Plot: There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey
I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.
My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.
And I am still prey.

Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….

Opinion:

Affliction is enamored of thy parts, and thou art wedded to calamity”

-William Shakespeare, Romero and Juliet

‘What is the haunted name, the secret name of your deepest self?’

And I answer, ‘Sorrow.’”

Sparrow lives and breathes ballet. Working with her ballet company and training for their rendition of Swan Lake for the Winter Gala has been a dream come true, and she couldn’t ask for a better partner than her childhood friend Lucas. And when she literally runs into a beautiful boy from her class, Tristan King, a heated romance sparks between the two that is both addicting and fierce. But sometimes Tristan isn’t always the boy she fell in love with, sometimes he changes. A quick flash of eyes like black holes and soft features that sharpen into granite have become Sparrow’s waking nightmare. But Tristan isn’t the only darkness that surrounds her in pirouettes. The death of her mother consumes her, wakes her in the night and follows her like an entity feeding from her soul. Sparrow is drowning.

The earth tilts beneath me. My hand falls into the rushing water, blood spooling out from my fingers, dark ribbons in the moonlight stream. The stars flare and disappear. I float away on a sea of mercies.”

I try hard to breathe, and then I remember.

Dead girls can’t breathe.”

Wow.

This was a heavy hitter.

I haven’t highlighted sentences and paragraphs like this in a book since…well, maybe ever. Practically my entire kindle edition of Sparrow is yellow. And if that doesn’t express the immense haunting beauty that this book is, well, allow me to elaborate.

Sparrow is the story of a girl falling into darkness.

A swan princess becoming the Black Swan.

Sparrow is dedicated, charming, spirited and loving. She pours every ounce of hurt and emotion into her dancing, and it is the only time she can breathe and speak with her heart without screaming. When we first meet her, her infectious and fun personality shines through immediately. She is a typical teenage girl who laughs, acts silly, goes to school and gossips with friends. She is living out her dreams of dancing as Odette in the Swan Lake, and she is thriving. But when she begins her relationship with Tristan, everything shifts.

Count the houses. Count the streetlights.

Count the minutes until Tristan turns back into the boy I love.”

The beginning of their relationship begins and goes by fast, skipping ahead to three months before I even realized what was happening. It started out like an insta-love relationship and I was a little put off, but as the story progresses you realize there is a reason for why it was written like this. It is told in some chapters by Sparrow, and some by Lucas. Through each of their eyes you see different versions of each scenario, how Sparrow sees things, and how Lucas is viewing the reality.

It’s almost a relief when he hits me.

Everything comes back to me, all of it. I remember to tighten my body so I won’t fall, how to pull up, just like in ballet, every muscle taut and prepared. I know how to protect my face, where to hold my arms to keep the first, the strongest blows from reaching the softest parts of my body.”

To say that it was easy to read Sparrow’s journey would be an outright lie. It was so painful witnessing the abuse that Tristan rained down on her. The mood swings, his possessive nature, and how he would so ruthlessly talk down to Sparrow as if she didn’t matter. His cruelty and darkness towards her was frightening. He would scream hateful comments at her, demeaning her and calling her worthless or a slut. His anger was volatile and sudden, a tsunami engulfing a peaceful beach.

If only he’d look at me, give me a smile, tell me with his eyes that I’m forgiven, that he loves me, that we are okay.

If only I could forget his hand on my throat, the pressure of his fingers, the fury of his eyes.”

But what was worse, was Sparrow’s unflinching love and loyalty for this monster. She was enamored with him when he was sweet, when he treated her with affection and promised her love and the world. She so easily brushed aside his temper and rage, and refused to admit that his hitting her and abusing her was actually his choice. And even when her friends questioned his treatment of her, she was adamant about defending him and refusing to open up. Sparrow is like a steel door, chained and bolted. Everything stays hidden and locked away, and she deals with everything alone.

This is my fault, my fault, my fault. He loves me. He loves me so much. He tells me all the time. This will pass. We’ll be fine. He’ll feel terrible in a few minutes, and there will be apologies and tears and promises and kisses.

I will forgive him, because I love him.”

It was heartbreaking to have to sit and watch her fall away into nothing, until it was too late.

The Swan Queen is dead.”

What I love about this story is how seamlessly everything connects. Throughout the story Sparrow has dreams and memories of her mother that come up, more and more often as her relationship with Tristan builds and she begins to fade away. With her mother dying when she was a young girl, the unresolved emotions from her passing has now found it’s way into Sparrow’s every day life. Her mother begins to consume her thoughts, emotions and reactions. She quickly finds herself in a dark space that she can’t find her way out of, and the past that they shared begins to shed light on who she has become.

I promise, Mama. I’ll be quiet. I’ll be good.

I am not the kind of girl who tells.”

There is a turning point in this story when Tristan goes too far, and it is…devastating. The aftermath of what Sparrow becomes, a shell of herself now filled with anger and rage, was one of the hardest things I’ve read. My heart broke a thousand times over as I witnessed the pain and betrayal that this poor girl suffered, and the atrocities of how Tristan is dealt with. Sparrow becomes unrecognizable and defeated. It was like every ounce of light was sucked out of her soul, and all that was left was pitch black nothingness.

I’m the Black Swan.

Curses swirl in my blood. Wickedness is buried in my bones, bound to make everyone who loves me suffer. I’m a black hole, a night without stars, drawing pain and grief and heartbreak to me like a magnet. Destined to make no one happy ever.

I am my mother’s daughter.”

“He told me once that he could hear what people were thinking in the silent spaces between their spoken words. That he could tell what someone was feeling just by looking into their eyes. So I wonder, as I have so many times since I was small, why he couldn’t see the terror in my eyes.”

Though Lucas plays a big part in giving us an important outside look and perspective on Sparrow, I think his side story was a tad unnecessary and I found myself slightly skipping through them. I think the story would have benefited if it went into less detail about what he was doing at his grandmother’s house, and really dove deeper into Sparrow and the aftermath of Tristan. It felt like some parts of her story were rushed over, while Lucas was given a lot more development and focus. Which was confusing to me.

But what was important about his book apart from Sparrow’s experience, was how her abuse affected those around her. So many times the friends and loved ones are forgotten in traumatic experiences. They also go through the hurt and pain alongside the victim, so I was glad to see this story gave them a voice as well. Overall, this story was beyond beautiful. It was a poetic tale of abuse and trauma that got extremely dark and raw. I highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys getting their heart shredded, or just wants to read a book that will actually make you feel something.

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At the end of everything, a fish dive.”

4 Stars

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Book Reviews · Books · New Releases · Simon and Schuster

Book Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

Together We Caught Fire

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, SimonTeen, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

Plot: What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

Opinion:

How many nights would I lie awake, listening through the thin wall of my bedroom for the sleep-jagged edge of his breath? This boy, so long unreachable-the core of everything I’d wanted, mangled and reassembled into a cosmic joke.”

Mood Board 2

I have always gravitated towards books that will punch a hole through my gut and make my heart feel like its weeping. A book that forgoes dancing around truths by ripping back the layers that mask humanity from what it really is-a tangle of limbs and whispered promises, lines being washed away and expectations discarded in a wind. Pure emotion and action that is flawed, gritty and raw. A story that could incite the same anger, sadness, regret, shame, sorrow, hope, love, fear and recklessness in me, as it does its characters. If a book can do that to me…well.

There’s just no unfeeling that, is there?

I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotion that hit me like a freight train while reading Together We Caught Fire. I, as I assume so many other readers have and will, expected this to be a fluffy contemporary about forbidden love. About a girl who pines for someone she can’t have, but eventually gets. But to say that this is just a love story between two people who want things they shouldn’t, would be a huge disservice to the lives these characters live. It’s a story of trauma, pain and sorrow. Where these young people are thrown into depths they can barely stay afloat in, frantically thrashing their way towards one another, while simultaneously helping and threatening to drag each other down beneath the surface.

From the very first page you are thrust into these tumultuous and vibrant lives. Lane-the girl who has loved her new step-brother from afar, Grey-the step-brother in love who also sees another, Sadie-a girlfriend deep in her faith and future, and Connor-a lost boy who consumes chaos. I fell in love with these teens so quickly, due to the harshly realistic actions and feelings they possessed. They were wild and reckless, but also levelheaded and compassionate. I felt such a strong connection to Lane in particular, and to that anger and fire that was constantly eating her alive. That sadness that makes her reach towards people shyly, wanting love and respect, but retreats immediately and slams up a wall of brick because she would much rather not feel at all. “A girl who picked sensation over feeling.” She is fierce and calm, angry and sweet, a bubble of light and a pit of sorrow.

Mood Board 1

When Lane was at the age of five her mother committed suicide, and Lane was the one to find her. Even several years later, she has horribly vivid and frightening nightmares of her mother almost nightly. Seeing her in various states of pain and horror. Though she has an incredibly supportive and accepting father, Lane was still unable to fully heal from her mother’s death. This book dives incredibly deep into the roller-coaster that Lane finds herself on as she deals with this new family that has entered her life, and a love that she is forced to push down and ignore.

I looked up and lost my way, drawn to him with that familiar sickening swoosh. A pitiful tide, held fast in the grip of the moon.”

Which brings us to Grey. He’s one of the most unique male characters I have comes across in YA. Sure he’s good looking, smart and respectful. But he’s also Pagan! A young fictional male that practices?! I was shocked, but deeply thrilled. At first I really loved Grey and found him to be a desirable character, and I could easily see why our leading lady was head over heels for him. But as the story progresses, my opinion of him quickly changes when it comes to how he begins treating Lane. To put it nicely, he becomes a complete ass. He is in love with his girlfriend while fighting the growing attraction and connection between him and Lane. He is confused, frustrated and unsure of what he wants. But when Lane begins to show interest in something other than him, he completely flips and begins throwing tantrums. Stomping his feet and sneering because he wants the shiny new toy to himself.

But don’t worry, our girl Lane knows how to dish it.

I wanted to puke again. I wanted to scream at him and slap his face, kiss him until the world burned down. Dare him to ever call me cold again, once everything we’d known was ash.”

I wanted to flatten his soul.”

In this story, the reader gets more than just a tale of love. Lane becomes friends with Connor, the brother of the girl that is dating Grey. When Connor was a young teen he was kicked out of his home for being gay, and had spent the next few years living on the streets. Now he lives in a warehouse for artists, spending his days as a metal worker. Not only do Connor and Lane begin to bond over their love for art, as Lane crochets, but they have pasts that are troublesome and hard to bear. Connor pushes Lane outside her comfort zone, helping her to confront her fears and to move past the debilitating triggers caused by her mothers suicide. He’s a rough-edged, snarky, confident and breathtaking character. It was impossible not to love every aspect of him.

The romance is obviously a huge aspect of this story, and it is incredibly beautiful and raw. It put an ache in my chest and a sharp pain behind my eyes. It was a tender, rough, electric connection laid bare. It was shocking and left me slightly unhinged, wondering how I didn’t see it coming. Every time I assumed it would go a specific way, it twisted and went in a completely different direction. This love has no rhyme or reason and was poetically unapologetic. These two souls entwined to fill the holes in one another that had left them gaping since they were children. Being an anchor for the other to release their pain and sadness. But as swoon-worthy and magnetic as it was, it was also a pit of destruction and tears.

How had I thought we could end in anything but ruin?”

This book wholeheartedly swept me away into this world of love and darkness. It was more than just a Contemporary Romance, it’s THE Contemporary Romance. It was starry-eyed and dramatic. Sloppy and poetic. But it wasn’t just a teenage relationship story. It was about a girl who had been dealt some serious life-altering shit on a platter at the age of five, and had been trying desperately to crawl out of the hole that it had thrust her in. Together We Caught Fire is a story of loss and forgiveness. How a girl fights through her hardships just to find a shred of herself that she can love.

It wasn’t about them at all, and never had been.”

If you do anything in 2020, ensure it’s that you read this. The part of you that loves being fulfilled while simultaneously shattered, is begging for it.

5-stars

 

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~* Dream Casting *~

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Lane

Emily Browning is one of my absolute favorite female actors, and I couldn’t imagine anyone better to play Lane. She has the look on innocence and sweetness, but has that uncanny ability to flip a switch and become enraged with emotion.

 

Sadie

Sadie has to have that southern “Girl Next Door”, girly, wholesome, vibrant, bubbly look to her. I think Rita Volk’s look is perfect for the beautiful Sadie.

 

Grey

Raf Miller feels like a shockingly perfect fit for Grey. Not only does Grey need to be gorgeous, which Raf is, but he needs to give a little of that “Homecoming King” vibe with a little edge of mystery.

 

Connor

A no-brainer. Lucky Blue Smith is Connor in a pretty package of devastating gorgeousness and rough-edged allure. He knows he’s stunning, but also possesses that level of assured awkwardness that is Connor.

 

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