The Kids of Cattywampus Street | A Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing The Kids of Cattywampus Street, written by Lisa Jahn-Clough, and illustrated by Natalie Andrewson. I picked this one up because I had been looking for a whimsical book to read. So when I found this one, I just knew I had to pick it up. Not to mention that Lemony Snicket himself liked the novel! Anways, let’s get into it!

The Kids of Cattywampus Street by Lisa Jahn-Clough: 9780593127568 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In this delightful chapter book filled with black-and-white pictures, you’ll meet Jamal, Lindalee, Hans, Matteo, and others–the kids who live on Cattywampus Street, not far from the Waddlebee Toy Store. Each of the eleven chapters in this magical, mysterious, silly, scary, happy, and sometimes sad chapter book tells an utterly unforgettable tale about one of the kids. Whether it’s about Jamal and his magic ball, which knows how to find him after its been stolen away; or Charlotta, who shrinks so small that she can fit inside her dollhouse; or Rodney, whose pet rock becomes the envy of all the kids on Cattywampus Street, here are stories sure to charm, captivate, and engage all readers of chapter books, even the most reluctant.

First let’s talk about the plot. The Kids of Cattywampus Street promises wacky tales about children that live on Cattywampus Street, or somewhere near it. The stories are also said to have some sort of connection to a toy store called The WaddleBee’s Toy Store. While the tales present in the book are bizarre, they don’t necessarily tie into each other. I was hoping for the stories to be connected in some way, but that wasn’t the case. Furthermore, the stories felt unoriginal, and already-done-before.

In addition, the characters had beautiful designs, but not all of them were likeable. There also wasn’t much character development, nor were there any learning opportunities present for children. 

The dialogue felt bland and tried too hard to be funny. For example, there was a typical mean kid and their ‘sidekicks.’ When a character was crying, the words ‘Boo Hoo’ were used to enunciate her sobbing. (I hope that makes sense!)

Moreover, I really struggled with the writing. It would always reveal the events that occurred before it happened. This left no space for the readers to predict or imagine what would happen next. 

Fortunately, the illustrations were stunning! They were whimsical and vibrant, which I’m sure young readers will love.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The Kids of Cattywampus Street. (Pun intended.) While I disliked the writing style, I adored how bizarre and vibrant the book was. This novel is perfect for kids transitioning from picture books, to chapter books!

Age Rating: 9 and up

TW: Some scenes might scare younger children

Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars

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What is your favorite short story collection? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have an amazing day!

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Sugar and Spite | A Review

Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. I hope you enjoy!

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?

Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion. And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks. But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…

First let’s talk about the plot. Sugar and Spite promises a magical enemies-to-friends story. And well, I’m happy to say that it delivered! Young readers will find this short and sweet novel both immersive, and exciting. 

Furthermore, the characters were very three dimensional! In many cases, I’ve found that middle grade protagonists don’t have much personality. Thankfully, Jolina and Claudine were very intriguing characters. The side characters also added quite the amount of liveliness to the story too. Jolina’s relationship with her grandfather was absolutely adorable!

In addition, I really liked how the dialogue was done. Many Fillipino phrases and words were used, which is great as it allows people to understand more about The Philippines. Moreover, the character interactions also felt very authentic and real.

“Your being brown doesn’t make you ugly. Mom always says we’re beautiful.”

― Gail D. Villanueva, Sugar and Spite

Unfortunately though, I didn’t love the writing. At times, the storyline became too confusing. The world building was done poorly as well. The only things the audience knows about the magic system is that it aids people, and that it’s passed down by generation. (I’m not entirely sure though, so please take what I said with a grain of salt.) However, I loved the talk about colorism and classism. The book promotes the idea that no one should be discriminated against, regardless of socioeconomic status, or race. And I think that’s such a beautiful message!

Overall, I really enjoyed Sugar and Spite! It’s educational and exciting. Younger kids will surely enjoy this story to the fullest!

Age Rating: 8 and up

TW: Natural disaster, bullying

Final Rating: 7/10, or 3.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐

What is your favorite Middle Grade novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have a fabulous day!

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Some Girls Do | A Review

Hey everyone! Today I’m super excited because I’m going to be reviewing Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan. I hope you enjoy!

(PS: This was a buddy read with the amazing Calliope @ Confessions of a Reading Addict)

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together? 

The plot of Some Girls Do was right up my alley! It was very summer-y, which I liked. However, I struggled a lot with the characters.

The main characters Morgan and Ruby are quite dislikeable. They were both very negative and unoptimistic. There is nothing wrong with that per se, it’s just that I prefer it when at least one main character is positive. Even by just a little bit. Moreover, Morgan was insufferable. It’s hard to put into words why, but I’ll try. Morgan was by all means not privileged in terms of the homophobic experiences she went through, but she felt very “I’m only supporting queer kids because I’m in that community”. She didn’t understand that POC and poor kids go through a lot too. I do think that the side characters were written very well though. Especially Morgan and Ruby’s parents. 

In addition, the dialogue was just okay. In my opinion, it tried too hard to be funny. 

Furthermore, the writing wasn’t anything special either. Some words were overused a bit too much for my liking. For example, ‘mysterious’, and ‘said.’

To conclude, I didn’t enjoy Some Girls Do as much as I hoped I would. While I can appreciate the summer-y atmosphere and unique premise, I disliked the characters and writing style. However, I still recommend this book to Jennifer Dugan fans!

Age Rating: 15 and up

TW: Homophobia

Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars

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What’s your favorite book with a summer-y vibe? I’d love to know! Have a great day!

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A Place Called Perfect | A Review

Hi all! Today I’ll be reviewing A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan. I hope you enjoy!

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Violet never wanted to move to Perfect. Who wants to live in a town where everyone has to wear glasses to stop them going blind? And who wants to be neat and tidy and perfectly behaved all the time? But Violet quickly discovers there’s something weird going on – she keeps hearing noises in the night, her mum is acting strange and her dad has disappeared. When she meets Boy she realizes that her dad is not the only person to have been stolen away…and that the mysterious Watchers are guarding a perfectly creepy secret!

A Place Called Perfect delivers a creepy and whimsical tale on friendship, and fighting for what you believe in.

The synopsis was said to be a book fans of Roald Dahl would like. I’m happy to report that this pitch is quite accurate! However, it did miss the mark for me in some places.

One aspect of the book I didn’t like were the characters. The main character Violet can’t do much on her own. She always needs the help of a boy whose name is…Boy. This annoyed me as young children, specifically young girls, will read this and see a girl their age constantly being saved by a boy. Here is a quote from page 237 in which I feel has some sexist undertones. For context, the main character Violet says this line. “I think I prefer the gate.” To which Boy responds. “Don’t be such a girl.” Boy laughed. It’s almost as though Boy is using the word ‘girl’ as an insult. The line was unnecessary, and adds nothing to the story. There was another line similar to this one. I can’t remember the page, but for context, Violet is cold. To which Boy responds, “Boys don’t get cold.” I just don’t think these comments are needed, especially in a children’s book. Overall, the main characters Violet and Boy were written very poorly. It’s such a shame because A Place Called Perfect had so much potential for witty banter.

Luckily, the side characters, specifically the Archer brothers, add a lot of creepiness to the story. The background characters also have this bizarre monotone expression to everything. It’ll only make you want to read on!

The dialogue, as mentioned earlier, contained a few sexist remarks. This unfortunately was a big turn off for me.

On a better note, the writing was deliciously eerie and gripping. It definitely reads like a thriller-mystery. The book is also quite easy to read, which is a plus since the target audience is under thirteen. My only complaint is that the pacing felt off at times. It went from 0 to 100 far too many times, and the transitions weren’t very smooth. Nevertheless, Helena Duggan still delivers a great story!

The overall enjoyment level of this book is fairly high. It was engaging, but could easily become boring for those who don’t love thrillers. All in all, if you’re looking for a creepy story to read on a rainy day, I highly recommend A Place Called Perfect!

Age Rating: 10 and up

TW: Some scenes might scare younger children, mind control, some violence

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s your favorite mystery novel? Have a great day!

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One Last Stop | An ARC Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. Enjoy!

**I received an advanced readers copy via Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

(Synopsis from goodreads)

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures. But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train. Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

The original premise of One Last Stop excited me. However, it never really stood out as something out of the ordinary. A time travel love story is something I see a lot within the science fiction genre. I was actually quite interested to see how the plot would be executed. On top of that, I was very eager to read the book due to all the hype surrounding it. Unfortunately though, One Last Stop fell extremely flat. 

Saniya, how could you?! Yes, yes, I know, it’s a popular book and I am very happy for the author. No one wanted a 2> star review for One Last Stop. But, this was dare I say, not my up of tea. Allow me to explain myself…

Let’s start with the characters. Our two MCs August and Jane felt very two dimensional, and had an even more superficial relationship. Aside from Jane liking punk rock music, the two seemed to have no personality. Because of this, I was unable to root for them. 

Luckily, I enjoyed reading about Myla! She was eccentric and book smart, which is one of the best combinations possible if you ask me. The other side characters didn’t keen my interest at all though. Thus when almost 80% of the book was August interacting with the side characters, I couldn’t bring myself to care about their conversations. Furthermore, I also felt as though there were too many people being introduced into the story. Henceforth why I quickly became overwhelmed as more characters were introduced. 

In addition, the dialogue was one aspect I had a tough time with. August and her roommates seemed to talk about rather pointless things that added nothing to the plot. I would have been completely fine with this if the dialogue was actually amusing or intriguing. However, the snarky remarks came off as odd and unfunny instead. 

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The writing is where I had another huge issue with. There was an abundance of rambling that added nothing but ~length~ to the story. The chapters were also incredibly long, and it felt like a chore to push through the book. The time travel aspect also made absolutely no sense at all. This led to me being confused and uninterested.

Overall, One Last Stop was an unenjoyable read for me. The story dragged on way too much, and the jokes just weren’t funny. Despite disliking the book, I recommend this to all the Casey McQuiston fans out there!

Age Rating: 16 and up

TW: Drinking, depression, anxiety, familial death, familial estrangement, missing persons

Final Rating: 3.5/10 or 1.75 stars

⭐⭐

Have you read One Last Stop? If so, what did you think of it? Have a lovely day, and thank you for reading!

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We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This | An ARC Review

Hi all! I hope you are well. Today I bring you my review for We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Enjoy!

**I received an advanced readers copy via Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

We Can't Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response. Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman. Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher. Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

This book will punch you in the gut, but in the best way possible. 

Incredibly poignant and heart-wrenching, Rachel Lynn Solomon delivers a young adult contemporary unlike any other. To start off, the book wasn’t predictable at all, which is quite rare for me in terms of YA romance. Furthermore, the initial plot of We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This had me thinking this would just be a romantic comedy, and boy was I wrong! This was such a rich novel, whose characters laid bare on the page.

Speaking of characters, despite not throwing in a gazillion references to pop cultures, the book’s characters are immensely relatable. Seventeen year old Quinn Berkowitz hates grand gestures. Eighteen year old Tarek Mansour on the other hand? It’s all he knows romance to be. The story essentially follows Quinn’s life as she navigates love (it wouldn’t be a Rachel Solomon book without it), family life, and the future. I  must say, the experiences Quinn goes through really had me all over the place. Despite disliking Quinn, (I found her to be extremely infuriating), she feels so real as a character. Moreover, Tarek was the absolute sweetest! His character was so endearing. Tarek loves baking, and of course, rom-coms. What I found to be quite refreshing is that despite being a guy, he loves romance. His infatuation in it is something I have strictly only seen in female protagonists, so it was definitely a nice change of pace. Unfortunately though, I could never really understand what Tarek saw in Quinn. When he was basically head over heels for Quinn, she didn’t reciprocate even 50% of that energy despite having a huge crush on him. Admittedly, this made me dislike her a lot more.

On a more positive note, an aspect of We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This that I absolutely adored was the representation. Quinn is Jewish, and lives with OCD. Tarek is Muslim, and lives with eczema, and depression. I can’t speak on how accurate the OCD, Jewish, or depression representation was. However, I am someone that lives with eczema and is Muslim. In terms of eczema rep, I think it was represented quite accurately. As for the Muslim rep, I didn’t feel represented in it at all. But that’s okay! Not every Muslim person is the same.

In addition, the dialogue is where it really hit me. It was just too good! The interactions Quinn and Tarek have are so genuine. They fight, they grieve, they love, and here I am tearing up, witnessing their whirlwind of emotions.

The story is told through Quinn’s point of view, and is written very smoothly. There aren’t any clunky paragraphs, and no typos either. Although, I will say that some chapter transitions seemed as though they had cut off mid scene. Moreover, Tarek and Quinn had a very on and off relationship. At times, it felt much too repetitive. Nevertheless, the writing style was very charming, which is always a plus!

The overall enjoyment level of We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This is, is very high. It explores various aspects such as mental health, relationships, consent, and so much more! We rarely get to see these topics compiled into a single novel, and that my friends is what makes this book a must read for all. 

Age Rating: 15 and up

TW: OCD, Depression, Anxiety, some us of alcohol

Final Rating: 9/10 or 4.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s one contemporary that made you cry? 😆 Have a lovely day, and thank you for reading!

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Scritch Scratch | A Review

Hey everyone! I hope you are well. Today I’ll be reviewing Stritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie. I must say, this one scared me quite a bit. Yes, yes, I’m a scaredy cat. We’ve established that by now. 😆 Anyways, I hope you enjoy!

Scritch Scratch: Currie, Lindsay: 0760789294242: Books - Amazon.ca

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.
Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.
Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late. 

Deliciously eerie and mysterious, Lindsay Currie brings us a story all thriller fans will adore! The plot hooked me right from the beginning, and kept my attention till the end! Scritch Scratch is fast-paced and gripping, so it’s definitely the perfect read to get out of a slump.

Furthermore, the characters were not that interesting. Although I respect the author’s ability to create semi-realistic kids without throwing in a gazillion references, I did not feel any connection to the characters. None of them were annoying per se, they were just lacking in development. Fortunately, the main character’s parents were very well developed. They each had their own unique personalities. The MC’s dad is a ghost story author, and runs his own spooky tour bus company. While their mom runs a baking business. How cool is that?!

“Love Ms. Mancini. She’s the only teacher I have who wouldn’t shame a student for falling asleep in class. I think she remembers what it was like to be in seventh grade and that’s what makes her so good at her job.”
― Lindsay Currie, Scritch Scratch

In addition, the dialogue fell short on personality. Most of it was trope-y, and uneventful. However, it’s the writing that really grabbed me.

Man oh man does Lindsay Currie know how to write a chilling story! I was very frightened, yet so intrigued throughout the book. What I found interesting, was that the writing was not very descriptive. This fascinated me as typically thrillers are quite descriptive. Luckily, this didn’t have a negative affect.

The overall enjoyment level of Scritch Scratch is very high. If you’re looking for a thrilling story with a wonderful message about friendship, and never forgetting those who came before us, then this is definitely the novel for you!

Age Rating: 10 and up

TW: Some scenes might scare younger children, lots of talk of a drowning accident, talk of abandonment

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s your favorite thriller? I’d love to know. Have a lovely day, and thank you for reading!

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Made in Korea | An ARC Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing Sarah Suk’s Made in Korea; A delightful and charming YA contemporary. I had buddy read this with some amazing bloggers; Rania and Ritz! Do check out their blogs as well if you can. Anyways, let’s get into it!

Made in Korea | Book by Sarah Suk | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster Canada

There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris. Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover… What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor. Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for. But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book via TBR and Beyond Tours and Simon & Schuster Canada. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This was everything I ever needed! Rival school businesses and K-Beauty will always be a win in my book. What makes this novel so special is that the characters make bad decisions while still remaining logical. You typically see people making bad decisions emotionally, never logically, so that was very refreshing to see. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that despite being marketed as a rom-com, I really don’t think it is one as the book deals with a lot of of hard hitting topics. Essentially what I’m saying is that if you’re looking for a funny enemies to lovers, you most likely won’t get that from Made in Korea. Anyways, on with the review!

What I loved most about this book, is that Valarie and Wes had very distinct personalities. They each have their own goals, and progressively became the best versions of themselves as the story went along. There was an abundance of character development, and I loved seeing them grow. I’ll admit, at first I didn’t like Wes. I couldn’t understand why everyone, including himself, kept of saying that he was so nice. I didn’t think he was nice till the last 30 percent of the book. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed reading about Valarie and Wes’ relationship dynamic.

The side characters were such a joy! Charlie, Valarie’s cousin and business partner, will forever be my all time favorite book character! I don’t think I’ve ever read about someone so incredibly wholesome. Taemin was also absolutely hilarious, and he genuinely made me laugh. Kristy was another great character too. Furthermore, Valarie and her halmeoni (grandmother), had such a cute relationship. I loved how much they cared about each other, it felt so real and genuine. Valarie’s older sister Samantha was a character I could really resonate with. She has all these expectations placed on her because she’s the eldest sibling, and it’s something that Valarie will never understand. I was interested in their relationship, and would like to have seen more interactions between them. Pauline however, I wasn’t too fond of. In my opinion, she was a fairly dull character, and I couldn’t see why Charlie could like her. It felt as though he had a crush on Pauline just for the sake of it. Her infatuation with marine biology was cool though.

The dialogue in Made in Korea was very well written, I really felt all the emotions the characters were experiencing. This novel contains by far one of the best dialogues I have ever read. It was extremely raw and heart-wrenching. I loved every bit of it.

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In addition, the writing style was simple and easy to follow. It’s told by the perspectives of Valarie and Wes. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I can’t tell the difference between the perspectives of characters. Thankfully, I had no issues telling them apart. My only complaint is that the constant italics complicated things a bit. Nevertheless, the story had me hooked on every word.

The overall enjoyment level of Made in Korea is through the roof! You’ll definitely not want to put it down. If you love the idea of entrepreneurial enemies to lovers, or love it when opposite attract, than this is definitely the book for you! I highly recommend this book to all contemporary fans!

Age Rating: 14 and up

TW: Some use of alcohol

Final Rating: 9/10 or 4.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you for reading (or skimming). You can read my interview with the author here! Have you read Made in Korea? What’s your favorite YA contemporary? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a fabulous day!

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The Other Side of Perfect | An ARC Review

Hey everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk. Feel free to read my interview with the author here! I hope you enjoy!

(Thank you Netgalley and Little Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but then a terrifying fall shatters her leg — and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it.
After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected — namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive castmate she just might be falling for. But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she experienced in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet — something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice. 

The original premise of The Other Side of Perfect is very unique and intriguing. Luckily, the execution was done quite well. I loved the talk about racism in the ballet industry. It’s something you never hear about, so I’m beyond happy the issue was addressed.

Our main character Alina Keeler is going through a rough patch. Due to an injury in her leg, she can’t dance Ballet anymore. At first, I thought she was unnecessarily rude and judgmental. Eventually, as time passes, Alina learns to grow from her experiences. Towards the end, I started to admire her character much more than I did when I first started reading the book.

The side characters were all quite diverse and three dimensional. Unfortunately though, Alina’s best friend Margot was very infuriating. Throughout the whole book, she’s mean and crude to others for no reason. Thankfully, our main character’s other friends are all very sweet. Each of the characters go through development, and change throughout the novel. My favorite character is Jude. I love how the he defies gender stereotypes. The topic was discussed quite a bit, and I’m so glad the author discussed it. That’s actually one of the reasons why I’m rating The Other Side of Perfect higher. Furthermore, I really enjoyed the dynamic between Alina and her younger sister Josie. It felt incredibly realistic and raw. Also, can we talk about the fact that the bullies in the novel are named Jake and Paul. Okay social commentary, I see you. 👀

Moreover, I couldn’t connect much with the dialogue. There was too much profanity for my liking, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just isn’t something I particularly enjoy.

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In addition, the writing was just okay. It wasn’t very engaging, and thus bored me a bit. The author rambled a lot as well, which caused the writing to be repetitive. However, Mariko Turk successfully created a character that actually felt like a teenager. The story is told through Alina’s perspective, and is done very well. She’s a morally grey character that’s a teensy bit selfish. But you can’t help but like her! The author captures Alina’s emotions and sentiments perfectly.

The overall enjoyment level of The Other Side of Perfect is well, fine. The first 70% was boring and uneventful. Luckily, the last 30% was very enjoyable! If you’re looking for a coming of age novel on dance, racism, and grief, than this is definitely the book for you!

Age Rating: 14 and up

TW: Profanity

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Turtle Under Ice | A Review

Hiya everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario. This is actually the first time I’m reviewing a book written in verse. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive. But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone. Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

I usually read books in verse if I’m trying to get out of a slump. However, I just picked this one up spontaneously. And I’m happy that I did! Turtle Under Ice is a story full of emotion and the will to just push on. It oozes out with sisterly love, and tells us that we should always be grateful for our parents.

The story follows sisters Ariana and Rowena. It’s told through both their perspectives and is done astonishingly well. Despite disliking Ariana, I can 100% understand where she’s coming from. Ariana wants to be an older sister Rowena can look up to, but she knows she’s failing that role. I found this to be incredibly touching and relatable. Ariana is also a creative, and uses her art to cope. She actually does her summative art project on grief. Meanwhile, Rowena, or Row, uses soccer as an escape from her heartache. What really broke me is that Row sees her mother on the field when she plays. The reason behind this is that her mom was always so busy, that she could never attend any of her soccer matches. Furthermore, I ADORED the sibling dynamic. It perfectly captured the fact that no matter what happens in life, they’ll always have each other, and it was just the sweetest thing!

“Maybe hope is like a turtle under ice
breathing through its shell,
through its biochemistry, still alive. Maybe hope waits for spring to come, for the ice to thaw
for the weight of the pond that encapsulates us to melt into nothing. But maybe we are not meant to wait for springtime.
Maybe, instead, we are meant
to break the ice
and be free.”

― Juleah del Rosario, Turtle Under Ice

In addition, through the dialogue we got to see how Ariana interacts with other people. The way she talked to people with no care in the word was quite interesting. Aside from that, there wasn’t much dialogue. Instead, there were more monologues, which brings me to the writing!

“There was no right time for my mother to die,
because when someone we loves dies,
it will always be untimely”
― Juleah del Rosario, Turtle Under Ice

Juleah del Rosario’s writing is truly beautiful. Turtle Under Ice is written in verse, and is done exquisitely. The author creates such vivid yet depressing scenes that will make you want to read on! It’s absolutely stunning, and isn’t overly metaphorical or unclear.

Overall, Turtle Under Ice is a quick and emotional read perfect for those who are looking for a moving story on familial relationships and grief.

Age Rating: 14 and up

TW: Death of a parent (off page but talked about a lot), miscarriage, main character runs away from home

Final Rating: 7/10 or 3.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s your favorite novel written in verse? Have a lovely day, and thank you for reading!

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