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BOOK REVIEW – The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow

BOOK REVIEW – The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin BowThe Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
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The children of world leaders are held hostage in an attempt to keep the peace in this “slyly humorous, starkly thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) novel.

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

Welcome to my Unpopular Opinion Review of the month! (alright, I’m writing “unpopular opinion” reviews more often than that, BUT let’s be honest, usually it’s the other way around). What this means is : if you hated The Scorpion Rules, you might find me too lenient. Hello you! If you loved The Scorpion Rules, you might be happy to hear that no, you’re not alone. Hello you! If you haven’t read The Scorpion Rules, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and come back to tell me which category you fall into!

“Borders straines, checkpoints broke, and of course people started shooting, because that what passes for problem-solving among humans. See, guys, this is why you can’t have nice things.”

This is part of the prologue and I already knew that I would love it at this point.

So. Guys. I’ve read a lot that there wasn’t any plot… and I’m going to politely disagree. Nothing happens is such a subjective thing, when you think about it. For me there’s a difference between a lack of big events and a lack of progression. There IS a progression and nothing was irrelevant in my opinion. Of course, most of the first half deals with the Children of Peace’s everyday life and that life is weird. I mean, there are goats and harvests and a lot of zucchini? (you might be worried at this point – DON’T)

The truth is, I can see why people would complain about this but I thought that it was incredibly well done. What annoys me in dystopian is : they’re unrealistic (random couple saves the world for some reason), more often than not they’re devoid of any world building (if you don’t count “standard tyrant took over the world because he’s evil” and… I don’t, sorry but it’s not a WORLD-BUILDING, it’s A SIMPLISTIC SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENS EVERY DAY)

In The Scorpion Rules, it makes sense. THIS IS LIFE. THEIR LIFE. Of course it’s relevant! Not to mention that it made for the BEST built-up. This book was crazy and NASTY (There’s TORTURE) and also super weird BUT I loved every second of it. It took my breath away – and I didn’t need big explosions to do so (even if they were fun hehe). It may have gone forward quietly, but it never lost its tension.

(this is the moment when my dear friends who hated it shake their head while murmuring “but the goats!”)

(and it will probably be the only time I’ll get to write this in a review but in my opinion, the goats were necessary to get the sense of what their world became. Oh my God, I love goats.)

1) I loved Elian almost instantly, and I’m not even ashamed. Because you know what? Even though I know that he’s supposed to incarnate The Bad Boy New To School ™, by no means can he be restricted to this stereotype. HE IS MORE : fleshed out and brave and a coward and he doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up even when mechanical spiders are scrawling all over him and electrocuting him (ow!). He’s also loyal and charming and LOST. POOR BABY.

2) TALIS!!!! Give me a book in which I can LOVE the villain and you’ll get a win almost every time. Think Deadpool on crack (I know, it’s mind-blowing)(except, Talis actually, I don’t know, win sometimes?) Seriously guys, I was cracking up at the prologue without even knowing that the narrator would be a character (and at this point, my understanding of the world was nearly inexistent). The ruler of the world, who thinks that blowing up cities is fair game, whom we should hate, shows such a likeable personality, so damn sarcastic and funny, that we CANNOT hate him. Not for one second we cannot. Give him some slack! He’s only acting for the greater good… I think?

3) Sure, Greta wasn’t the most interesting character to read about, given that she was brainwashed into being a dull, nerd princess, BUT I completely bought her character, and that’s saying something. Dull she was at first, yet I loved seeing her opening her fucking eyes and standing up for her friends. YOU GO GIRL.

Oh, how that (mostly unimportant aspect) was hated! First thing first : you need to know that the romance didn’t affect most of 15 pages out of the whole book. I’d say that it’s not enough to spoil the entire book if you don’t like it, BUT sometimes one sentence can make me rage SO I won’t be this person and disrespect that.

This said, here’s what I think : Well, I think that our knowledge of the tropes make us reject anything that comes close to a love triangle and in my opinion it’s pretty… frightening to see that we’re so damn used to them that we analyze novels through their lens without even realizing it.

Look : There’s this boy whose arrival is disruptive for the plot, so of course we expect him to be a love interest. What I mean is that in our head, we tick the love interest box. Is there something in the book, at this point, that actually implies it? Fuck no, but we don’t need it, we just know it. Then when he’s not a love interest – or, rather, when the situation reveals to be more complicated than that – we yell love triangle because really what else could it be?! Well it’s not. No, in my opinion it’s not. Yes, the MC kisses two different characters, but I don’t have in me to restrain this situation to a love triangle as we generally understand it, that is to say some dumb girl who’s hesitating through 3 books between Love Interest #1 (the Golden Boy) and Love Interest #2 (the Bad Boy), and whose whole behavior and decisions revolve around that fucking choice.

Try complex relationships instead. Friendship. Empathy.

See, I was talking to my dear Chelsea about it, and I told her this : since WHEN do I need for a character to be a love interest to love him? SINCE WHEN? Well, since every fucking character in every fucking YA book taught me that their personality would be ruined if they weren’t love interest because THEY WOULD NOT MATTER. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of characters I love in YA who aren’t any kind of love interest, and for me it shows that there is a problem with YA. I used to ADORE characters who aren’t romancey at all. Thank you Erin Bow for reminding me that.

My friend Laura said that she didn’t so much see a love triangle but a fullness of love. I’m stealing that line. What love indeed. Who needs labels? I don’t.

Can I just say something? I didn’t feel an ounce of romantic chemistry between Greta and Xie. Sorry, OKAY? I just didn’t. I wish I had, but what you gonna do. Oh, well. There’s barely even romance anyway. FRIENDSHIP is what matters, NOT BEING BLOWED-UP is what matters, so I’d say that it’s not a really important flaw in my book.

► Honestly? Such a good surprise, I cannot wait to see where the story goes.

BOOK REVIEW – Captive Prince : Volume One (Captive Prince #1) by C.S. Pacat

BOOK REVIEW – Captive Prince : Volume One (Captive Prince #1) by C.S. PacatCaptive Prince : Volume One (Captive Prince #1)
by C.S. Pacat
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"This was Vere, voluptuous and decadent, country of honeyed poison"

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else...

TRIGGER WARNING : graphic violence, rape, slavery

Oh, the dilemma. Review it? Jump on book 2? Review it? Jump on book 2? Review it? Jump on book 2?

Eenie meenie miney mo
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollars let him go
Eenie meenie miney mo

Oh, screw it. I swear that I’ll write a real review of Captive Prince: Volume One because Helloooo, it deserves ones, but for now my excitation and eagerness to freaking KNOW what will happen leads me to shorten my ramble and only give you reduced information (perhaps that’s for the best) (you don’t want to read my entire rambling) (trust me)

☑ Welcome to a harsh and unforgiving world where slavery (including sexual), torture and rape are common practice (including towards youngers, which makes the book so fucking hard to stomach at times). I know, I know, YIKES, but trust me, if I could handle it it’s only thanks to C.S. Pacat‘s talent for dealing with these awful subjects without never showing any form of indulgence towards them. Indeed it’s obvious from the start that Damen, the MC, doesn’t condone nor accept Vere’s barbaric customs. This said, he is the product of this world, therefore what is normal to him can appear quite horrible for our contemporary minds, and with reasons. If he hates people to be abused, he does accept slavery as normal – like a Roman would have. This does not mean that we readers are supposed to agree with him, but actually the opposite. Although I was trembling with rage as soon as I reached page two – and my sentiments never wavered – my fury was focused on this world, as I’m sure the author intended to.

☑ If the world-building leaves several shadow zones and can’t be compared to the level of a full fantasy novel, in my opinion it wasn’t the point : Captive Prince: Volume One is character driven and the political machinations and cunning mostly made up for the relative lack of information about the ‘outside’ world. Early on my mind was reeling, and despite the fact that I guessed several outcomes, it didn’t diminished my enjoyment because –

Well, because –

Laurent. HOLY SHIT I CAN’T HATE HIM. He fascinates me way too much. Perhaps I should feel ashamed, given the fact that he’s a torturer son of a bitch for most of the novel but HEY! You’re talking to the girl who loves Jorg of Ancrath. So there’s that. You know you can’t trust me when it comes to COMPLEX and straight on CAPTIVATING villains. I just can’t. I’m sorry, blablabla, and all that. So, Laurent. He’s harsh, manipulative, intransigent, secret, unwilling to trust, multi-layered, HE MADE ME LAUGH (because dry humor is somehow right up my alley. WOOT!) – He also is growing. I cannot wait to see who he will become in the next books. (to be taken literally) (on to book 2 right now)

The grow of Damen and Laurent’s relationship is perfectly handled – there’s no romance here, guys. THANK YOU FOR SLOW BURN. Also, banter. Banter is EVERYTHING. Especially when it’s so subtle that every giggle comes with a gasp of surprise.

To conclude this review that is already way longer than I had expected (somehow it doesn’t come as a surprise), I’ll say that I was never bored – Not at any moment. Appalled, furious, captivated, curious, yes. Not bored.

This is quite a success. Color me surprised. No, scratch that : color me stunned instead. Beware, this does NOT mean that I would recommend this book to anyone. I WOULDN’T, because I’m not lying when I say that it’s really REALLY harsh and morally questionable. Please go warned.

BOOK REVIEW – The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

BOOK REVIEW – The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear

► After having hesitated for a long time, I decided to give 4 stars to The Song of Achilles, no matter how flawed I thought it was. The reason for this is that I know that this book will linger, and that I treasure this kind of feelings above everything. This being said, it does not mean that I’m able to overlook what annoyed me, and I will try to give it the fairest review possible – if such thing really exists, which I doubt.

Look, I’m not going to argue over details and trying to decipher if Madeline Miller stays true to the original(s) because for me there is no such thing as a perfect retelling, but I’ll say this : she manages to mix the greatest events of the Iliad with crediting other opinions, as Eschyle’s, and fills in the blanks, creating this way a believable and captivating story with them. What more would we ask for? If reading this book can convince people to have a look at classics, I’d say that The Song of Achilles is without any doubt a success, and I immensely enjoyed every one of the references.

Madeline Miller‘s writing, if not exempt of purple prose sometimes (I’ll come back to that), stays compelling and flows smoothly, capturing these Great characters in a simple light that I found really enjoyable. One might say that most of the story is rather dull, and I sure cannot disagree with them. Yet even if I wanted more, I do understand the path Miller chose : this is not the story of great battles and honors. This is the story of the men behind them. Stripped of the sparkling lights of fame, they remain flawed men whose lives also know their fair share of boredom and everyday events. Oh, and they made me laugh, too. I swear!

Along the way The Song of Achilles brings an interesting thinking about what it means to be famous and the dangers of losing who we are to fulfill our pride’s needs. In that, she nails her subject in my opinion, as well as the evolution of Patroclus’ love for Achilles. See, if you take an unflinching look at all these Greek Heroes and Gods, they’ve really nothing to be proud of, to be honest. Parricides. Fratricides. Rapists. Liars. Self-absorbed. Mad. So very stupid, really. I loved that she didn’t try to make us love them but offered some pieces of understanding – yes, I’m talking about Achilles.

“Who was he if not miraculous and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?”

Unfortunately the pacing was uneven and the second half didn’t work for me as much as the beginning. Bored, I grew restless, my inner devil urging me to skim (I didn’t), especially between 60 and 75%. The ending makes it worth it, though. I’m not one for changing my rating because of the way a book ends but I can’t deny that the way Madeline Miller splendidly wrapped her plot impressed me so much that I know it influenced my rating a little.

“This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This and this and this, I said to him. I did not have to fear that I spoke too much. I did not have to worry that I was too slender or too slow. This and this and this!”

I know that many readers didn’t like that aspect, but one of my favorite part was the romance, especially because it was flawed. Beware, the first half is mostly focused on Patroclus and Achilles’ growing relationship, so if you can’t stand romance it could be hard to handle (just thought I’d warn you :P)

In my opinion the way Patroclus went from a blind – and, really, obsessed – love for Achilles to the lucid acceptation of his flaws was wonderfully handled. It didn’t start promisingly, though. I mean, in the beginning Patroclus worships Achilles way too much, nurtures some weird fixation on his feet (I swear! He can’t stop mentioning them!) and can’t keep his mouth shut about how fucking beautiful Achilles is. So as a reviewer the only thing I can say is – it is there. If you’re put off by somewhat unrealistic and purple descriptions of love from a young teenager it will upset you. But as a reviewer I must also say that for someone who can’t stand purple prose 9 times out of 10, I still loved it, because I understood Patroclus need to be accepted and how he transferred it to his princely companion. Not to mention that his love evolves along with him, and more we progress through the story, more it appears that his puppy love morphs into something way more mature and realistic.

“I know, now, how I would answer Chiron. I would say : there is no answer. Whichever you choose, you are wrong.”

But let’s talk about Patroclus, okay? I adored him and the way his character grew through the story. From a shy and rejected child to a fierce and compassionate man, he is complex and cannot be limited to his relationship with Achilles. Loyal, he’s still able to see the mistakes his lover does and always tries his best to find the best way to handle things. He’s not perfect, but really, nobody is, and that’s for the best. In a world where warriors are put on pedestals, how to survive when you prefer healing than killing?

“My stomach feels burned to cinders; my palms ache where my nails have cut into them. I do not know this man, I think. He is no one I have ever seen before”

My feelings towards Achilles are way more complicated, but I don’t think we’re meant to love him. See, I always pictured Achilles as this bragging proud hulk – and there are hints of this part of him still, yes. He doesn’t know how to be himself in a different way, and if his young self is pretty likeable, he grows more and more indifferent to everything but Patroclus and himself. His conscience seems to go MIA several times and I sure can’t forgive some of the decisions he took (especially toward women), but again, I’m not supposed to.

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Yet his love for Patroclus was so big, I couldn’t help but feel, if not sorry, but sad for him and for the path his life took. However, I never fully connected with him and I regret that his character wasn’t as true-to-life than Patroclus, especially as an adult (I really liked his teen self full of mischief, though).

If I’m being honest, at first I had a hard time understanding why Patroclus loved him so much – except because he was handsome and skilled, it goes without saying. But as I stated earlier, I genuinely think that Achilles fulfilled Patroclus fierce need to be accepted, to be taken care of – and I can’t argue with that.

As for the other characters, I applaud Madeline Miller for making them feel so real, even if I would have wanted better roles for the women, who either stay overshadowed and grandly mistreated and abused (I know that this world was harsh and unforgiving towards women, but still, I was furious) or are pictured as greedy bitches. They are the big absent of this story, and that’s a shame – but this is the case in the original(s), therefore I’m not sure I can hold a grudge against Miller for this. I did appreciate how Patroclus tried to make things better in the end, even if it wasn’t enough.

A special award for Chiron – God, this sarcastic Centaur is perhaps my favorite character in the whole book. Well, except Patroclus.

“He paused. “You have been taught to ride, I suppose?”
We nodded, quickly.
“That is unfortunate. Forget what you learned. I do not like to be quizzed by legs or tugged at.”

► To sum-up, if you have an interest in Greek Mythology and don’t shy away from romance, I think you should give this book a chance. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

BOOK REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

BOOK REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
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Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

It’s chilly and unnaturally quiet-if Abby weren’t with me, I would have to drown out the silence with music. It feels like we’re the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Wonder Woman and a gay dementor. It doesn’t bode well for the survival of the species.

So…this is new. A little birdie Alien told me that I just haaaddddd to read this. So I did. I asked her what I should read over my weekend getaway and this was her response. No, it wasn’t particularly what I would have chosen for myself, and no-I don’t think I’ll read a ton like this because…okay, I’ll get to that later. But, my point is, this book was just what I needed.

I take a sip of my beer, and it’s-I mean, it’s just astonishingly disgusting. I don’t think I was expecting it to taste like ice cream, but holy fucking hell. People lie and get fake IDs and sneak into bars, and for this? I honestly think I’d rather make out with Bieber. The dog. Or Justin.
Anyway, it really makes you wonder about the hype surrounding sex.

Every once in a while we just need a book to, I don’t know, reset everything. Reset your mood, reset your genre, reset your view of life-whatever you need reset, really. So, yeah, this is completely out of my comfort zone, but it was just so damn cute that I hardly cared. This book was a complete breath of fresh air because, and I’m speaking extremely candidly here, I had literally zero expectations. Zilch. Nada. None. So, to say I was impressed and surprised would be an understatement.

“That’s seriously bullshit,” says Mila. “You need to just talk to him.” And then she sees me standing there listening and shoots me the stink-eye.
So here’s the thing: Simon means ‘the one who hears’ and Spier means ‘the one who watches.’ Which means I was basically destined to be nosy.

Now, let’s not mistake my being honest for being biased or cruel-I like what I like and other people like what they like and that’s awesome-really, it is. And it’s even harder reading about something that isn’t….what you…I don’t know…picture? It’s just hard for me to fathom this. And I’m okay with that-I loved literally every minute of this story, obviously, if you can’t tell by my rating. I actually was at a 5 for most of the story, if you can believe it, which I can’t. I read this on the way home from Cedar Point (Yeah, see, I loved it so much that I read in the mother effin’ car!! I have NEVER done this. Ever. So, see? Much enjoyment) But the minute it’s revealed who the guy is (I knew it, by the way-so cute), things took that turn I’m uncomfortable with. You know what I’m saying…kissing and the like. And that’s my fault! So, literally I loved this, I just couldn’t ‘get into’ those scenes at the end. Only negative-literally.

But now that I said my only dislike, let’s get to everything I loved, which was almost everything. What I said above doesn’t mean I didn’t adore the end-it was perfection. Everything leading up to that moment made it all the more special and I couldn’t help but to smile like a goon. And the fact that it was YA really helped, too, if I’m honest. It’s my favorite genre, and especially for this it was really toned down.

“Okay, well, I’m taking over your bathroom now. Time for the transformation.”
“Sounds good,” I say. “I’ll transform in here.”
Nora looks up from her book. “Simon. Eww.”
“It’s a dementor robe over my clothes. I think you’ll survive.”
“What’s a dementor?”
I mean, I can’t even.

Simon was just such an amazing character. I mean, everything he said made me smile so big it was on the deranged side, and the minute our road trip home started, I fell into my impenetrable personal bubble. I think I rode home with three other people…was I supposed to be talking to them? Whoops. Guess I’m an antisocial ass-Nose in a book and no regrets. My point? I wanted Simon to be my friend. He was so funny and witty and and his inner thoughts absolutely slayed me. I highlighted so much of his inner thoughts that I am going to have a difficult time picking out quotes. He thinks just like me…..but it’s actually funny when he thinks it.

“Are you guys going to rehearsal today?”
“Oh, it’s optional now?” I ask. And then I do this thing I picked up from Leah, where you kind of cut your eyes to the side and narrow them. It’s more subtle than rolling your eyes. Much more effective.

And then the friendships. Omg I just loved Abby, especially. I loved the friendship, the shoulder to lean on, the ear to spill all secrets to…all his friends just surrounded him with such love, adoration, and loyalty that it made my heart burst. Simon goes through a difficult period, guys, all because of an instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s cruel. It’s not right…but the support system that rallies behind him? That possibly warmed my heart the most.

“Mom,” I say.
She tips her palms up.
“Come on. Please.” Already, Nora’s opening up the car door.
“I’m open to negotiating,” she says.
“For what?”
“One night of parole in exchange for ten minutes of access to your Facebook.”
Jesus Christ.
“Five,” I say. “Supervised.”

So, yeah. I loved this. And I think it’s kind of an ‘everybody’ book. It’s unoffensive and makes you laugh, and it’s so different from anything you’ve ever read. Blue is his secret guy, and they email back and forth through the whole story so you never know who it is, but you continually guess. Your heart breaks for Simon, for his inner turmoil and need to meet Blue. The way he reaches out to him…I just adored it. So, I don’t quite know who to rec this to, but I know that people could love it. I was in the right mood and it made my spirits soar-maybe it will yours, too.



Aw shucks, guys…..this was just way too cute:

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Yeah. It was like a Disney movie montage. Adorbs. (Yeah I went there)

Review to come ♥


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda?? How about:

Anna vs. Chelsea’s Peril Agenda

Surriously. She’s killing me with the begging and unrefined puppy dog kitty cat eyes.

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BOOK REVIEW – What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

BOOK REVIEW – What They Always Tell Us by Martin WilsonWhat They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
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James and Alex have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James’s friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways.

Sometimes we read books whose wicked plots and twists, while blatantly aimed to make us feel something, fail their purpose and sometimes, sometimes, we come across a quiet book which lead us to strong and real feelings.

What they always tell us is that kind of books, and that’s why, even though I have issues I can’t overtake, lowering my rating below 3 stars wouldn’t be fair in my opinion. I mean, I ate it up for fuck sake! Indeed contrary to many readers, my main problem wasn’t the pacing, because I was never bored. It’s a quiet book for sure, not our standard roller-coaster, but I do enjoy reading this kind of books sometimes, especially when they manage to make me feel, as it was the case here.

This being said, despite my utter involvement in Alex and James’s lives (well, mostly Alex’s, if I’m being honest), I can’t help but feel cheated somehow, as the last 25% disappointed me and left me almost empty. Don’t you hate it when you’re LOVING a book and then you’re only waiting for it to end? WORST. FEELING. EVER. Although I adored the first half, I began to slowly change my mind, finishing it in complete exasperation.

This story deals with bullying and the importance of family in a believable and touching way, as we follow James and Alex, two brothers who try to build their relationship again after Alex became suddenly an outcast. Even if James never was my favorite person (mostly he’s a know it all jerk for me, especially when it comes to girls – what a slut-shamer he is, I can’t even), I understood the need and the interest to get his POV too.

Alex though. Alex broke my heart. Alex made me smile so big. Alex made me cry, too.

▧ What I really appreciated was the way bullying was portrayed, because to me it was realistic – Sometimes being ignored, laughed at, quietly belittled can be more hard to live than many persons acknowledge it, sadly, and Martin Wilson does a great job to picture the thin line between “friendship” (see the quotation marks? Yeah?), teasing and bullying. To be frank, I didn’t get what Tyler’s deal was (apart from being an asshole, that is), but we don’t always understand why people act that way in real life too unfortunately.

“Tyler, in particular, used to bombard him with stinging comments, punctuated always by an empty “Just kidding, Alex.”

➸ This sort of passive-aggressive comments is so common – and there they were supposed to be still friends. Damn. The guy pissed me off.

▧ Moreover, what we get here is a portray of realistic characters, with their flaws and their best parts. When I say that they sounded like real teenagers to me, that means that they sometimes think the most stupid things (trust me) – that I had to roll my eyes a few times, actually, but I didn’t mind, because for once, I could have imagined them being people actually living.

▧ As for the romance, I must say that Alex and Nathen’s gradual and growing relationship was fantastic to follow. They were the cutest, really, and I shipped them from the beginning to the end. Indeed I loved how Nathen tried to break Alex’s shell without never being intrusive or judgmental. He was the best, really, even if he irked me with his addiction to the word BUDDY (for real – how many times can he say that?). The ending frustrated me so much though.

▧ I love when YA doesn’t try to do YA. That is to say, a dick’s a dick, that kind of things (the first shower scene made me laugh way too much for my own good – I don’t even know if I was supposed to laugh. Oh, well)

The whole subplot with their young neighbor was messy, especially towards the end where it was completely ridiculous. Let me sum it up : there’s Henry, a little boy about 10 years old who moved with his mother at the beginning of the year and who’s having a hard time fitting in at school. Nobody really knows why they’re here and what his mother does for a living, therefore of course, of course, unfortunately, people can’t mind their own business, and you know, speculate about them and wonder why they move around the country so much. Not to mention that the mother is gorgeous so you can infer in what place people’s guesses go. Sigh. Add some drama lama in the end and you’ll get an annoyed reader (yes, me). Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the friendship building between Henry and the two brothers but the whole drama with his mother got to my nerves, especially in the end because it stole the show and frankly? I didn’t care.

The lack of world-building. Yes, you read correctly, I wanted more world-building in my contemporary – or is it, really? After reading it I looked up the date of release and it was released in 2008, not so far away then, right? Now, tell me, did the teenagers had not cell phones and internet in 2008? Huh? Of course they did. Therefore from what I picked in the book (and trust me, there’s almost nothing other than the lack of things) I can infer that the story is set in the 90s and therefore I would have LOVED to get some pop culture references or something, anything, really, to help me put the story in perspective because yes, I do think that it’s important when we deal with how people react, especially when it comes to tolerance. That’s why I’m shelving it as historical romance.

The ending was unsatisfying at best, and mostly frustrating. Look, I’m not usually bothered by open ending but as I said earlier, what maddened me was the fact that we focus on the neighbors’ subplot and I didn’t fucking care about that. Finally, and it’s my own inner brat talking, why the fuck do we get James’s POV for the last chapter?

► I wanted Alex’s so bad, and I don’t give a damn if I’m being a sulking brat at this point.

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