A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door

“Fifteen-year-old Matt Wainwright is in turmoil. He can’t tell his lifelong best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her; his promising basketball skills are being overshadowed by his attitude on the court, and the only place he feels normal is in English class, where he can express his inner thoughts in quirky poems and essays. Matt is desperately hoping that Tabby will reciprocate his feelings; but then Tabby starts dating Liam Branson, senior basketball star and all-around great guy. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough; but, as Matt soon discovers, he’s close to losing everything that matters most to him.

I went into A Short History of the Girl Next Door having almost no idea what it was about, but high expectations based on the buzz around this book. I just assumed, naturally, that it was about a girl next door and subsequently, a love story. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it’s not your everyday run-of-the-mill teenage romance where, despite all obstacles, the main characters figure things out in the end and kiss passionately before proceeding to their happy ending.

Those things only happen in Matt’s head. One of the things I loved most about this story was that it was full of clichés, but they appeared mostly in Matt’s thoughts, and sarcastically at that. Matt resents the “overdramatic movie director in his head” who controls his thoughts and fills his mind with hopelessly theatrical scenes.

Matt is in love with his best friend, and in typical movie fashion, Tabby is oblivious to those feelings and opts to date a popular senior guy instead, and Matt is crushed. That storyline itself didn’t bother me—though it is a little overused in contemporary fiction—but I found it difficult to empathize with Matt’s love for Tabby, as her character is the most underdeveloped in the whole story. I felt like the only thing the reader really knows about her is that she has red hair and likes Nerds, and two boys love her. Her and Matt’s backstory was enough to make the story cute, but it sometimes felt like a story about a boy who is in love with a cardboard cutout of a girl rather than an actual, three-dimensional human.

When I started this book and realized it was about basketball, my hope that I would like it faded away almost instantly. I don’t mind basketball itself or occasional mentions of sports in books, but I tend to stay away from stories where sports are the main focus of the plot. It tends to breed characters that have no depth beyond the stereotypical dedicated athlete, but I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case with Matt. Even though basketball is one of the most important things to him, and he is especially good at it for only a freshman in high school, the development of his character is more centered around his humor and his relationships than simply one of his hobbies.

The story is full of shocking twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but I can’t say more than that without ruining the story. I’m happy I had no inkling of the direction the story would turn in as I read because it made the rollercoaster ride that is this book that much more enjoyable.

Overall, this story isn’t what I expected it to be. Where I thought I’d find another love story like every other in the world of young adult fiction, I found a story that embraces clichés while giving them a new twist. The humor and sarcasm dripping on every page kept my interest, and this was one of those stories that remind me why I love to read. Jared Reck did a great job crafting this story, and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read full of humor and emotion.

4 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

img_6809.jpgI try not to pick favorite books; to me, that seems a lot like picking a favorite child. But contrary to the previous statement, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is my new favorite book.

Carry On is only the second Rainbow Rowell novel I’ve read, the first being Eleanor and Park. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t very memorable for me, so I never went on to read any of her others until now.

That being said, I haven’t read Fangirl yet, but I will definitely seek it out after reading this book. The story of Carry On is based on a story mentioned in Fangirl, and while it would have been relevant  background information to have when going into this book, I’m glad I’m reading them in the order that I am. It was interesting for me to go into Carry On knowing nothing about it, and therefore having nothing to bias my enjoyment of the story.

Rowell’s writing goes back and forth a lot between character perspectives, which is usually something that bothers me (and reminds me a little too much of actual fanfiction), but I felt it worked well for the book. I loved the way the perspective changed between Simon and Baz, allowing a look into both of their feelings. (I especially loved Baz, he might be my favorite character of all time.)

The story bears a lot of similarities to Harry Potter as far as the basic idea goes: an orphan boy who doesn’t know he is magic is thrown into a world where he is their “Chosen One,” and attends a boarding school where he takes magical classes. While this may seem like the same storyline, I was surprised and delighted to find that once you get past the basic setup the similarities end and Carry On takes on its own unique identity.

The characters in this story are unique and easy to fall in love with (did I mention that I love Baz?). Simon and Baz start off as roommates who are constantly dreaming of ways to kill each other, but the way their relationship evolves and their true feelings are revealed is unlike any other story I’ve ever read. The emotions were real and beautiful, and I’m probably going to read this book about ten more time just for Simon and Baz.

The only criticism I have of this book is that their should have been more. More pages, more chapters, more books. There is nothing I want more than a sequel to this book (Rainbow Rowell if you are reading this, please). I’ve read a few things that make a second book sound like a possibility, but I haven’t been able to find anything confirmed, so all there’s left to do is hope.

Overall, Carry On was one of the sweetest, funniest, and most heartwarming books I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend this book to absolutely anyone. Don’t ask questions, just read it.

5 Stars

I’d love to hear what you thought of the book, or what you think I should read next!

Happy reading!

Bailey

 

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green

IMG_6717A few days ago, John Green released his fifth solo novel: Turtles All the Way Down, starring Aza Holmes, an awkward girl with a dead father and crippling anxiety.

Based on Green’s reputation from his previous four novels, I had my expectations set high for his newest publication, and it fell a bit short.

Turtles All the Way Down begins when Aza Holmes, known affectionately as “Holmesy” by her best friend and partner in crime, Daisy, hears news of a $100,000 reward being offered to anyone with information about the whereabouts of billionaire Russell Pickett. She and Pickett’s son, Davis, knew each other briefly from a camp for children who lost a parent, and upon being reunited they hit it off almost immediately.

Of course, in typical John Green fashion, their romance has more than a few obstacles, the most prominent of which being Aza’s own mind. She struggles with anxiety, giving her uncontrollable “thought spirals” and inescapable fear of contracting a disease known as C. diff.

By experiencing this story through Aza’s head, Green allows the reader a rare glimpse of the thought process of a teenager struggling with anxiety and other mental illness, and highlights the inescapability of these invasive thoughts. Aza’s anxiety gets in the way of her friendships, her relationship, and even her ability to do most mundane tasks.

Once Holmesy is reunited with Davis, the story’s focus strays from the mystery of finding his father, and becomes more of a minor subplot compared to the events of their romance and Aza’s thoughts. I expected there would be more regarding the enigma of his father’s disappearance, but where the story lacks an abundance of crime-solving excitement, it makes up for in heartwarming romance and valuable life lessons.

The title Turtles All the Way Down refers to the idea that the Earth is flat and resting on the back of a giant turtle, who is standing on the back of a giant turtle, and so on: it’s turtles all the way down. The reference brings up questions of the existence of God, which is never directly mentioned in the book, but contemplation of the meaning of life is hardly new of John Green’s writing. His intended message with this title is left up to the interpretation of the reader, but it certainly bears some relation to mental illness and the “thought spirals” that Aza experiences.

Turtles All the Way Down is a short, easy read with a good bit of power. The characters are interesting but not very relatable, and are basically the same as those in every other John Green novel. Overall, the story has its ups and downs, but I do believe it has earned its spot alongside John Green’s other novels.

5 stars