Review

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Have a Little Faith in MeHave a Little Faith in Me
by Sonia Hartl

Published September 3, 2019

Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.

Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity. [goodreads]

Several aspects of this story rang true to my own experience growing up as a ‘youth group girl’ who later stepped away from the church (for various reasons). In this story, CeCe experiences a lot of the shaming that goes on in modern churches regarding women’s bodies and sexuality.

I wish I had read this book as a teen, and am so glad that teens today will have the opportunity to do so. I really appreciated the honest and realistic explorations of the church’s expectations of women, the ways those expectations are often sexist double-standards, and the guilt/shame that youth group girls tend to feel about their bodies.

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME also does a great job of talking about consent in a natural, conversational way. The characters learn, on the page, that there’s a difference between saying yes and meaning it, between saying yes once and continually saying yes, and that when you say yes under pressure it’s not truly a yes.

So many of the scenes brought me straight back to my youth group days, but there were often times that I felt things were taken too far. For example, CeCe tries to wear a bikini to the lake for an afternoon of swimming, but is stopped by a camp leader who tells her “modest is hottest” (totally a thing I used to say. YIKES.) and forced her to cover up in an embarrassing, gross outfit from the lost and found.

CeCe makes a comment about the double-standard that guys are able to go shirtless while girls have to wear modest one-pieces or wear t-shirts over their swimsuits. I enjoyed that she challenged this policy on the page, but didn’t like that the church leaders seemed so vicious and intent on punishing CeCe for wanting to wear a bathing suit she felt confident and comfortable in.

This was basically my biggest/only problem with the book, and what kept it from being a 5-star read for me. Throughout the story, it seemed like the pastors/leaders didn’t care about any of the kids. They had a very legalistic view of Christianity and represented it in a very poor light. In my experience, church camp is a very welcoming and loving place. Although there are boundaries and rules, they are enforced with explanation and empathy, not with punishment and embarrassment. Nothing about the way church camp was portrayed in this story would make me ever want to attend church, that’s for sure.

In addition to the important topics covered in HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, the characters were extremely well-written and developed, with growth and character arcs that worked really well. The main character, CeCe, was laugh-out-loud funny and had some hilarious one-liners. I found myself actually laughing several times while reading and it added so much to the story. Not enough YA books feature funny characters!

I highly recommend this book to any teen, church-going or not, because of the fantastic explanations about what consent truly means and the candid conversations about the basics of sex. It felt like reading a Judy Blume book for today’s generation.

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME is out now!
Click here to order your copy.

 

Review

Frat Girl by Kiley Roache

Frat Girl
by Kiley Roache

Published March 27, 2018

Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review.


For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.

With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.

But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all. [goodreads]


 

FRAT GIRL was a very interesting concept, and while it was not 100% right for me, I think there are definitely many teens who will benefit from this book.

FRAT GIRL provides a strong feminist message. While at times main character Cassie can sound a little preachy or public service announcement-y, the information she presents is helpful and important.

At the start of the novel, Cassie was very anti-Greek life and believed that all fraternity or sorority members were mindless, partying, idiots basically. I was quite off-put that this self-proclaimed champion of feminism treated her dorm roommate so poorly for pledging a sorority. If you don’t support your fellow women in whatever path they choose to take, your feminism is worthless.

I was glad to see that this was addressed later in the book but it was still an issue for me that Cassie acted this way to begin with.

Parts of this book flew by and parts of it dragged on. I was really into it for like the first 25%, the middle was a bit blah but not bad, and to be quite honest I skimmed a lot of the ending because I found myself no longer caring what happened.

I realize that I am not exactly the target audience for this book, and I do recommend it to teens. I wish I had read a book with this kind of information in it while I was in high school, because it certainly would have changed my perspective on feminism and would have equipped me with important information.

If you are a teen or someone interested in learning the basics of feminism, I think this book can provide some very valuable insight. If you are older or are well-versed in feminist beliefs, this book may come a cross a bit too on-the-nose for you.

Purchase a copy of FRAT GIRL here!

 

Review

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

 

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Published June 6, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Source: Purchased

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do? [summary from Goodreads]

2

I finished this book pretty quickly and really enjoyed reading it. The world of creating a web-series was totally new to me, and not something I had ever heard of before. It was an interesting part of the story, and I kind of wish it had been explored a little more in depth. Tell me more about basing the series, “Unhappy Families”, on Anna Karenina and how to tell the same story in a modern day setting! More about coming up with a script and finding actors and making it all happen!

Tash was relateable on so many levels. She deals with unexpected family news, her sister moving out and heading to college out of state, and her best friend’s dad is going through cancer. She practices Buddhism, which is really cool, and I think she is the only Buddhist YA character I know of!

Tash also describes herself as asexual, meaning that while she does form romantic relationships, she is not interested in sexual relationships. This causes a bit of tension between her and another (super horrible, shitty person) character who I won’t spoil for you. This is the first book I have read with on-the-page, very clear asexual representation. It’s obviously super important for more books with ace characters to be published as Tash’s experience won’t match everyone else’s who identifies on the ace spectrum (that’s why it’s a spectrum, y’all), but I thought it was very good representation and have heard the same from other people who do identify in the same ways as Tash.

I really enjoyed reading about Tash’s journey – she grows a lot in this novel and ended up in a really good place. She realizes she hasn’t been a great friend, and then she does better. She is true to herself and knows who she is doesn’t waver from her ideals even when they are met with adversity. I cared about her character and wanted to see her happy, and I’m really glad that the ending delivered that. While I never was very invested in the romance that ends up happening, I did really enjoy the friendship and family dynamics that were explored very well. Overall, I give this book a solid 4 stars! The only thing I would have liked to see more of is L-O-V-E but then again I get that not EVERY story needs a romance angle BUT it’s still my favorite.

Get your copy here!

Have you read Tash Hearts Tolstoy yet? What were your thoughts?

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Review

The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us
by Emery Lord

Published May 16, 2017 by Bloomsbury

Source: Purchased


1

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized. [summary from Goodreads]

2

Emery Lord has been one of my favorite authors for a while now, but this book really just cemented her into YA royalty. This is one of those rare books that is so perfect in every way that you just…don’t really know what to say about it other than it will make you feel. so. much. 

Lucy finds herself starting off the summer freshly dumped and questioning her faith after learning that her mom’s cancer has come back. Religion and cancer can be topics that immediately turn people off to a book, but I assure that this book is neither a “cancer book” nor a religious book. Lucy’s faith is explored in an honest and complex way as she tries to navigate believing and trusting in God (in a totally progressive way) alongside wrestling with questions like how God could allow her mom to get sick again. I found the doubt she experienced totally realistic and a great aspect of the story.

The setting and characters of this book were all so absolutely perfect. I am obsessed with Camp Daybreak and wish I could spend a summer there myself. I loved the family of camp counselors that Lucy found herself a part of. Every character added something really special to the story and I just fell absolutely in love with everyone.

If you haven’t jumped onto the Emery Lord fan-wagon yet, then you have no idea what you’re missing out on. And if you have read her, well, then you know! She’s writes with a phenomenal voice that pulls you deeply into the story. Seriously…by the last page, I am so not ready to leave! To anyone and everyone who is reading this post: read this book. You will be glad you did.

34

Like I said above, this is my absolute favorite new Emery Lord novel. It is the perfect mix of summery contemporary feels with a story that will make you laugh, cry, and wish you were spending your days with Lucy at camp. Must read!

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Review

Let’s Talk: The Last Thing You Said

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The Last Thing You Said

The Last Thing You Said
by Sara Biren

Published April 4, 2017 by Amulet Books
320 pages
Source: eARC received from the publisher
*All thoughts are my own! Thank you to the publisher for the early review copy.


1

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

2

This was a bit of a slow-burn story that totally paid off. It reminded me a lot of Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (but not quite as sad). It’s about navigating between grief and hope and being stuck in between the two. I love summer love stories, and this is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It’s much more character-driven than plot, but the cast of characters are enjoyable and relateable. Even when Ben is being an asshole, you totally understand why.

TLTYS is a fantastic debut and I can’t wait to see what comes next from this author! I LOVE when the setting becomes its own character, and that is done so well in Ben and Lucy’s lakeside Minnesota town. Their parents are present and fully part of the story, which is refreshing as well. I totally recommend this story to lovers of summery YA romance. It’s going down as one of my 2017 favorites!

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Review

Let’s Talk: Finding Audrey

Finding AudreyFinding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella
Published June 9th 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 288 pages

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.
An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.


Finding Audrey was easily one of the funniest books I’ve read so far this year! Sophie Kinsella did a great job of illustrating a young girl dealing with not only mental illness, but also navigating her first love, a crazy (but loveable!) family, and so much more. Audrey is struggling with severe anxiety due to an incident that happened at school with a couple other girls, and is learning how to deal with that anxiety and resume functioning in her regular life.

I really loved the way her family was written as well! I was literally laughing out loud throughout the book at some of the comments her brother made or the well-meaning but over the top parenting methods her mom tries. I gobbled this book up in just a day and a half! It’s a quick read, but not fluffy by any means.

Overall, Finding Audrey is a great balance of light-hearted wit and realistic issues. I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to all!