A Magic Dark and Bright

by Jenny Adams Perinovic

Reviewed by SA

This book made me mad for all the right reasons. Let me just start by saying that. Why? Because the ending is amazing. Really, incredibly, painfully amazing; and so is everything leading up to it. I was spellbound, from start to finish.

Summary

She meant to help a ghost…not unleash a curse.

Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White since the night her brother died.  The ghost seems to have disappeared from the woods surrounding Asylum, Pennsylvania—that is, until Charlie Blue moves into the creepy old MacAllister House next door. Amelia can’t help liking him, even though she spent her childhood thinking his grandmother was a witch. And she definitely can’t ignore the connection between his arrival and the Woman in White’s return. 

Then Amelia learns that the Woman in White is a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Devastated by the idea that her brother could be suffering a similar fate, Amelia decides to do whatever it takes to help the Woman in White find peace–and Charlie agrees to help her.

But when Amelia’s classmates start to drown in the Susquehanna River, one right after another, rumors swirl as people begin to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the unexplained deaths. As Charlie and Amelia uncover the dark history of Asylum, they realize they may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before everything they love is destroyed.

This is a trope breaking novel: as soon as I felt it turning towards the familiar, it changed its direction and gave me something new. Like with the character of Amelia, a young woman recovering from a very painful and traumatic event. She could easily have become obnoxious, but she instead went through incredible growth over the course of the novel. Or with her relationship with Charlie, which at some times seemed to take precedence over the plot, but then defied expectation by turning into something, well, different. And there I must stop, to avoid spoiling anything for you. Suffice to say, this is not your normal YA.

The plot is oddly paced: at times, it feels like not much is happening, while at others, it’s action after action. But it adds to the tone of the novel, where it feels as if the characters are allowed to return to a normality before being thrown back into horror. It also adds to the suspense, the mystery of it all, and its slow resolution, which is sure to raise anticipation, and leave you with a few questions… It all leads through amazing twists and a roller coaster of an ending, leaving you breathless, and craving for more.

From the first line – A woman haunted the woods behind my house. – you know you’re in for something amazing, all the way to the end… and hopefully beyond, because, after a cliffhanger like that, I am going to NEED a sequel!

A great and thrilling novel about life and death, about ghosts and magic, about the dangers of prejudice and jumping to conclusions, A Magic Dark and Bright is a must read for paranormal lovers everywhere. Beware – chills included.  Comes out April 28th.

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Hold me Closer

By Tiny Cooper David Levithan 

Reviewed by SA

Get ready to sing! Tiny Cooper, the not-so-tiny and incredibly gay teenager who stole our hearts in Will Grayson, Will Grayson (David Levithan and John Green, 2010) is back, and this time… it’s musical. A companion piece to Will Grayson, this fabulous book brings to life the play Tiny has spent his life writing, filled with song, heartfelt truths, and intricate choreography. And the ghost of Oscar Wilde is there too.

Summary

Jazz hands at the ready! Tiny Cooper (“the world’s largest person who is also really, really gay”) stole readers’ hearts when he was introduced to the world in the New York Times bestselling book Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored by John Green and David Levithan. Now Tiny finally gets to tell his story—from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends—the way he always intended: as a musical! Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, the novel is told through the full script of the musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

I will start right here by saying that your probably have to have read WGWG before reading Hold Me Closer  to really enjoy it. A lot of the themes from the original novel are evoked, and there are many references to events that transpired, and characters we met before. There are also a few inside jokes (if you want to call them that) that will have you laughing out loud… if you’re in on them. So drop what you’re doing and read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which is also a great book, but I won’t be reviewing that right now.

Tiny Cooper is a young gay man with a huge heart and a whole slew of personal questions. Like most teenagers, he struggles with identity and, well, love. He has a whole slew of exes – a chorus of them, actually – and each has something to say about his inadequacies. Or sing. While Tiny shares his life story with us – from birth, to coming out, to his final ex up until now – he also shares with us his hopes, his fears, and the advice he has learned from people around him.

The lesson is clear: You must learn to love yourself before you love anyone else. Tiny learns this early on, but takes a while to actually live by it. There are a few amazing quotes which I think are perfect for teens to hear, as it is a lesson for the ages. This gave the book an honest quality to it, a certain reality that made it so approachable.

Hold me Closer is an actual script, a functioning script: just add tunes! It would be incredible to see a high school perform it. It’s fun to read the songs and put your own music to them; to imagine the musical in all the glory Tiny would have wanted it to have. The interesting thing is how Tiny speaks to us, the reader, through both his asides to the audience, but also his stage directions. Sometimes you feel a brutal honesty there, as if there is more going on that he would like to let on; it encourages an intimacy with Tiny, a glimpse into his mind, which we wouldn’t have if we were just watching the show.

All in all? A perfect companion piece, but also a great play in its own right. Tiny cooper’s story is about as tiny as he is. When reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson, it was Tiny who stole the show, and I’m so glad he finally has his spotlight and time to shine. I want to put this book in the hands of any young teen who passes my way.

Hold me closer, Tiny Cooper, and belt your song out for everyone to hear.

When Reason Breaks

by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reviewed by SA

I am always nervous when I pick up YA novels (I say pretty much the same thing every time I start a review of a YA), as it is so hard to find a book that defies formula, breaks into new territory, and rips your heart out. Guess what? When Reason Breaks (Cindy L. Rodriguez) is most definitely a great novel. Plus, it’s a diverse book!

When Reason BreaksTwo sophomore girls come from different worlds. Emily is the sweet, smart daughter of a lawyer/politician father who controls most aspects of her life; she loves her friends Sarah and Abby, and her boyfriend, Kevin. Elizabeth is a dark goth girl whose father has recently run out on, making her the ‘basket case’ of the school, with anger issues and a tendency to draw dark pictures. When their English teacher, Ms. Diaz, places them together in class, they grow together over a love of Emily Dickinson, whose poetry will push them to reconsider many aspects of their lives.

The novel deals with the harsh topics of mental illness and suicide, while drawing parallels between the lives of the two young protagonists and Emily Dickinson herself. It will have your heart racing, your hands stuck to the cover, unable to put the book down.

Full disclosure; for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t convinced about if I liked it or not. I found the protagonists slightly pretentious, slightly predictable, and I felt as if I had seen them before. But as the plot progressed, I realized that the feeling of familiarity came from the fact that I did  know people just like them. I recognized their thoughts and feelings as those I had myself felt, or had experienced second hand as I stood alongside a friend through a tough time.

It was honestly the end of the third act (if you would want to call it that – you’ll know what I mean when you read it yourself) when the book grabbed me. The book begins with a dark chapter, after which the novel then takes you back eight months, to show what series of events has brought them to this point. Just like Ms. Diaz, I made assumptions about this moment; when I saw that I was wrong, my entire perception of the book shifted. My heart raced as I realized… “I am part of the problem,” a scary thought. I suddenly saw the novel in a different light; when I finally finished it, I had to put it down, stare at the ceiling, and think everything over in my head. Just… wow.

But what made it so much more interesting was the introduction of Emily Dickinson as the inspiration for the women. During the course of the book, the protagonist offer different interpretations to some of the most famous poems, making them their own. And after the novel ends, the author offers insight into the life of our favorite lady poet, showing us just how every character reflects part of her past. It’s fantastic how she is able to do this without making the book feel like a perfect replica of Dickinson’s life, or preachy in any way: it’s subtle.

It was an actual emotional roller coaster; it reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher), crossed over with The Breakfast Club. I recommend tissues!

When Reason Breaks comes out February 10th.

Oh look, a book trailer!