YA book reviews, reading and recommending since 2009

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Dirty Little Secrets
by C.J. Omololu

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: Feb 2nd 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (4/5 stars)
Synopsis: Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.

For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother’s hoarding a secret. She’s had to — nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she’s always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she’s normal.

When Lucy arrives home from a sleepover to find her mother dead under a stack of National Geographics, she starts to dial 911 in a panic, but pauses before she can connect. She barely notices the filth and trash anymore, but she knows the paramedics will. First the fire trucks, and then news cameras that will surely follow. No longer will they be remembered as the nice oncology nurse with the lovely children — they’ll turn into that garbage-hoarding freak family on Collier Avenue.

With a normal life finally within reach, Lucy has only minutes to make a critical decision. How far will she go to keep the family secrets safe?

Review: Kudos to Omololu for coming up with Dirty Little Secrets. I have never seen any other book with a plot like this. I appreciated the fact that Omololu’s writing was very easy to read, it was short and direct to the point. Lucy is a strong character; readers cannot help but pity and hate Lucy. We pity her because she has to live her life worrying that someone would discover her mother’s serious hoarding and feel a slight hatred towards her selfishness.

There is no doubt that this novel is a challenging read because it will make you wonder what is the right thing to do. Lucy’s mother died and Lucy is trying to keep it a secret. That sounds really messed up right? But once you read about Lucy’s life you’ll realize that she is just the victim of her mother’s hoarding. Unfortunately, the downside of this book was that because it took place over a short time span, Josh was not very well developed. But still, it’s nice to see how romance was incorporated into the story.

You will probably never find another review mentioning this but because I have a soft spot for stuffed toys so I liked how Lucy found her old shabby teddy and kept him in her jacket pocket. Cute.

While Dirty Little Secrets is neither an action packed story nor does it feature star-crossed lovers, Omololu nonetheless pens a thought-provoking, gripping, novel. Opening Dirty Little Secrets is like eating dark chocolates. Bittersweet.

By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Publication Date: January 5th 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (3.5/5 stars)
Synopsis: Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she’s determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for “completers”- http://www.through-the-light.com.

While she’s on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she’s not on the Web, Daelyn’s at her private school, where she’s known as the freak who doesn’t talk.

Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she’s waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she’s made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won’t give up. And it’s too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life. Isn’t it?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters shines a light on how bullying can push young people to the very edge.

Review: This was an intense, saddening read. But despite that, I devoured it in a few hours. The writing was simple but raw until it made me cringe. My favorite moments was scenes with Santana. Whenever he was there, readers will tend to forget that Daelyn was planning on killing herself.

This novel knows how to throw reality in our face. It reminded me of this article about a fifteen year old girl from Ireland, Phoebe Prince, who moved to Massachusetts and was relentlessly bullied, picked on, verbally abused, harassed and degraded on a daily basis. She believed that her only option was to end her life; that it was her only escape. No one stood up for her. Not even the teachers. After an awful day of being tormented, she went home and hung herself.

Just reading that paragraph brings tears to my eyes. You can imagine what this book did to me. As I read it, my throat felt raw and my insides somersaulted. Although no tears were shed, I was so consumed with grief and sadness that I had no appetite to eat.

I enjoyed this novel very much but was a little unhappy at how the ending was so open-ended. *sigh* But I can see that Peters made the ending unclear so that readers can decide for themselves. Long after I read this novel, my mind was still reeling from it. I encourage you to check out Steph Su’s review where she rated it 5/5 which is extremely rare for her.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 5th 2010
Buy it from: Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!)
Gold star (2.5/5 stars)
Synopsis: Love can be a dangerous thing….
Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

Review: I knew I would be expecting a book which was set in a crazy town with crazy characters and that was what was masterfully delivered. It wasn’t a bad thing, I do not have qualms about the author being imaginative and setting the book somewhere out of our comfort zone. However, it was the plot that brought the rating down a notch.

The first 50 pages were difficult to comprehend, we were thrown straight into the middle of Hannah’s crazy life and she talks to her father. All is fine until we realise her father is supposed to be dead. In a way, Hannah is like Micah from Liar by Justine Larbalestier. An unreliable narrator because Hannah hallucinates. Overall, this book is not for the faint-hearted. There’s violence, some R rated scenes, and some gory descriptions.

Unfortunately, Bleeding Violet was not my cup of tea. I did not like it but feel free to give this book a go if you are looking for something unique.

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