Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Series: N/A
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Page Count: 296
Published: September 18th, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  3 Stars ★★★

Meg and Minnie are best friends who are excited to spend the weekend at a house party on an island. The only way to the island is by ferry and their families have no idea where they are going. It seems like the perfect act of fun and harmless rebellion, and the fact that the popular and hot T.J. is going to be there just adds to the excitement.

After meeting with the others at the house, all ten teens gather around the television to watch a movie and end up deciding on a disc labelled "don't watch me." The disc contains a mysterious and threatening message and leaves all the teens on edge, which only worsens when one of them is found dead.

With suspicions that there is a killer amongst them, trust is wearing thin and Minnie's mental state gradually worsens. People are dying, and anybody could be next. Could this have to do with the picture of the dead girl that Meg found in her room?

This book wasn't exactly what I had expected. From the reviews I read and the synopsis on the back of the book, I expected this to be creepier. There were creepy elements, though it seemed like more of a mystery than a horror book. Which is fine, in itself. But I guess I was a bit disappointed.

First off we have Meg. The main character, Minnie's best friend, and crushing on T.J. She was alright as a character, but I did find her annoying at times. Who would worry at all about romance, appearances and boys while people are dropping dead, you have no way to communicate with the outside world and there is literally a killer within the vicinity? I feel like the author could've integrated the romantic aspect of the story a bit better. It seemed unrealistic for such a tense and frightening situation. An example of this is on page 105: "She must have looked like some dorky tween just up from a slumber party...who was about to go down to the boathouse with a hot boy. Alone." I sincerely doubt one's priorities would remain so superficial in such a tragic situation.

There were some inaccuracies within the book, especially considering Ben's so-called tree nut allergy. This bothered me a lot. A bit of a spoiler, but there is a scene near the beginning where the characters are eating a salad, Ben has a reaction so severe that his face is literally described as turning purple, and Meg stabs his leg with his epipen. Then a few minutes later, Ben is back to normal and says, "It's no big deal, guys. Seriously. Happens all the time" (page 55). I feel like the author does not know anybody with severe tree nut allergies, and that she didn't do her research. When you give somebody an epipen because they are having an allergic reaction so severe that their face turns purple, you still need to take them to the hospital because the epipen only helps for a few minutes. Not to mention that he reacted to almonds, which technically aren't actually tree nuts. They are actually considered seeds. This annoyed me so much, because I felt this was lazy on the author's part and I am disappointed that this sort of inaccuracy somehow made it into a professionally published book.

Once again, just disappointment.

I guess this just adds to how unrealistic the book was for me. Meg thinking about romance and her looks as people are dying around her. Ben's laughable reaction and allergy.

There were some good things, of course. There were several surprising plot twists, for example. I wasn't expecting them at all. I like how the author used the stormy weather to add to the suspenseful atmosphere and create challenges for the teens, which added a decent dose of dread to the story.

If you're a fan of YA thrillers you might enjoy this book. If you like dark stories with lots of plot twists I recommend this. If you're willing to look past, or are not bothered by, inaccuracies and some unrealistic situations, this could be enjoyable for you. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame

Series: DIMILY
Author: Estelle Maskame
Page Count: 393
Published: December 1st, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
5 Stars ★★★★★

I received this book in a Goodreads first reads giveaway. 

Eden lives with her single mother and hasn't seen her father for years. When she's invited to spend the summer with him in California, she's not sure what to expect. Her two young stepbrothers, Chase and Jamie, seem nice enough and her stepmother appears decent, but her older stepbrother, Tyler, has a serious attitude problem. 

She makes friends with the girl across the street, who introduces her to her own group of friends, which happen to include Tyler's girlfriend, Tiffani. Unable to avoid Tyler, she discovers concerning truths about what he does in his spare time, and why he remains in a relationship with a girl he doesn't love.

As Eden and Tyler begin to warm up to each other, they find themselves caught up in their own forbidden romance. Fighting their attraction for each other and desperate to keep their affections secret, Eden knows that more than just their reputation is at stake.

When I started reading this book, I worried that it might just be another cliche YA contemporary romance. The whole summer romance concept, the bad boy, and the friend next door are often overused, in my opinion. But this book worked with these ideas in a way that wasn't at all cliche, and which was thoroughly enjoyable. 

Eden, the main character, was really likable. She had a distinct personality which really came through her narration. I did question her choices at times, for example her decision to keep hanging out with the annoying Tiffani. I couldn't stand Tiffani! But I also rooted for Eden throughout the whole novel, and I definitely hoped that she and Tyler would get together.

As for Tyler, I found him a complex and dynamic character. He wasn't the stereotypical YA bad boy. He truly had problems, found himself stuck in tough situations, and dealt with his past in the only way he knew how. His personal backstory was really sad and very raw, which is something I haven't read in many YA contemporary novels. His struggles really resonated with me and I can say that he was my favourite character. 

The romantic elements in this book impressed me because they managed to be exciting yet realistic at the same time. Eden and Tyler's passionate moments didn't occur without consequence, which made the whole book suspenseful in a way I've never really read before. 

This book is on my favourites list for sure, and I can't wait for book two! 

I definitely recommend this book! Readers interested in YA contemporary romance should give this one a try. If you love forbidden romances you might like this author's take on the theme. Even if you don't usually read contemporary romances I suggest that you try this book out; it was unique to other stories of its genre and really surprised me.