‘Flicker’ by Melanie Hooyenga Book Review

‘Flicker’ by Melanie Hooyenga is a very gripping novel. The concept behind it – that the main character, Biz, has the ability to go back in time eighteen hours if she so chooses – is quite intriguing. Biz’s ability, which she refers to as “flickering,” has never really been used by her for anything other than reliving good days in her life, doing better on tests she takes, and other reasons in which any teenager might find interest.

With both contemporary and supernatural elements mixed in, ‘Flicker’ shows how anyone can have abilities beyond the grasp of the average individual. Biz doesn’t fully understand why she is able to flicker, but she welcomes it, despite the ravaging headaches she gets as a result. Coupled with her dad’s epileptic tendencies and her mother’s persistent worry, she always seems to have a lot on her mind, especially if it’s happened twice. It was refreshing to see her parents so involved and caring since many parents in young adult novels tend to be pushed to the sidelines. Biz knows that she should be grateful for their insistence on being part of her life, but, just like any average teenager, she does her best to discourage their involvement, mostly by keeping her flickering from them.

It was nice to see a main character in a book enjoy a subject other than English, even though it’s always nice when they enjoy literature and writing. Biz’s love of photography propels much of the storyline, and her teacher, Mr. Turner, instills even more engagement in her photography skills as the story progresses, which ends up being quite ironic. Between Biz’s headaches from her flickering and people’s questions as to why she acts the way she does, she finds it hard to know whom she can trust, especially as her photographs begin to raise questions. This makes it hard for her to connect with others as much as she’d like, including her best friends, Amelia and Cameron, the latter of whom grows into more than a friend fairly quickly once the novel begins. Her friendships with these two show how, even though Biz is sympathetic to their plights – Amelia’s being that she wants to get closer to a guy she likes, and Cameron’s being much more involved – his sister went missing several years ago and he’s always been looked at as a suspect – she also is unwilling to let them be sympathetic to hers. In some ways this shows strength of character – that she can stand on her own two feet. In other ways, it’s nice to have people in your corner, and she should have been able to trust those with whom she is closest, including her parents.

There were a few areas I would have loved to read more about, but maybe Hooyenga will get to them more in ‘Fracture,’ this book’s sequel. Amelia’s relationship with the guy she likes was written in quickly, and it would have been nice to see it all connect in a more meaningful way than Biz just enjoying the fact that she and Amelia had relationships at the same time. A man who is on the bleachers at the games Biz takes photographs at is one point that is resolved near the end of the novel, but further explanation of his actions whenever Biz saw him would have been a welcome addition. It is understandable to pique curiosity as to whom he is, but having him share his involvement near the end would have been helpful. Finally, Cameron’s sister Katie’s story and more about the leads the police department had on her kidnapping as well as the others that took place over the course of the novel would have been nice. Several years elapsed between Katie’s kidnapping and the ones that were occurring in the present day of the novel, so some reasoning as to their starting up again could have been explored further as well. The ending came quickly, and some might worry that the story won’t resolve in time. It did, but the climax could have come a bit earlier to leave more time for some of these more extended answers to be included.

‘Flicker’ comes highly recommended for those who love contemporary fiction, romance, time travel, and a fast, thrilling read.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Flicker’ by Melanie Hooyenga here.

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‘Dill and Bizzy Opposite Day’ by Nora Ericson Book Review

‘Dill & Bizzy Opposite Day’ by Nora Ericson, illustrated by Lisa Ericson, is an adorable story about two best friends who can’t seem to come to an understanding. This is mainly caused by Bizzy’s insistence that Dill take part in opposite day, a day in which they do everything opposite of each other.

Dill, who is not too keen on this idea, attempts to voice objection as often as possible, even if just through his facial expressions, but his objections only cause Bizzy to be more insistent that they continue with opposite day. After all, Dill saying that they should end opposite day means that it must continue on, right?

It finally occurs to Dill that in order to get Bizzy off of her opposite day kick, that he must trick her into conceding it should be over. The most important point that Dill makes is that they can’t be best friends if it’s opposite day. The fact that they are already best friends means they need to end their friendship right then and there to stick with the theme of opposite day.

While Bizzy tries to find a solution, the illustrations that populate the pages of the story showcase the sweet, upset, friendly, and other types of expressions that Dill and Bizzy have about their current situation. An adorable romp through a fun-filled day (at least from Bizzy’s perspective), ‘Dill & Bizzy Opposite Day’ definitely captures the innocence of youth and the frustration that can accompany someone who is not willing to see anyone else’s perspective. Another adorable feature is that there are quotes from the two main characters on the back of the book sharing what they think of the story. While Bizzy thinks it is funny and so wonderful, Dill sees it as serious and quite terrible. Nora Ericson and Lisa Ericson have done a fabulous job ensuring that the characters truly stand out and find ways to hold their own.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Dill and Bizzy Opposite Day” by Nora Ericson here.

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‘Changes in Latitudes’ by Jen Malone Book Review

‘Changes in Latitudes’ by Jen Malone is a great summertime read. Taking place the summer before Cassie’s senior year, life begins serving up a ton of surprises. First and foremost is that Cassie, along with her mother, Elise, and brother, Drew, are going to be taking off for several months to sail a boat to Mexico. The idea is appalling to Cassie, who would much rather spend her final summer of high school hanging out with her two best friends, traveling the countryside and taking scenic detours. Adding to her upset is her parents’ divorce, which is affecting her in numerous ways, including being angry at her mother, whom she had always had a great relationship with, up to the point of the divorce.

The fact is that Cassie overheard something on the last night her father stayed at home, and it is shaping the way she is placing blame for the divorce, and the way she is coping with her life after the fact. As she deals with what she considers a complete upheaval of her life, she finds that not everything is quite as bad as it seems to be. Her pride, however, keeps her from admitting this, until her father requests that she send him two pictures every day, one of something bad or that isn’t going her way, and one of something good or right in her day. This task helps Cassie gain some much needed perspective and come to new understandings of not only herself, but of her mother, and of her life in general.

When she meets Jonah, a cute and quick-witted deckhand on a boat that is in their caravan down to Mexico, she learns that perspective is a definite plus, and everything and everyone has their own which might change the way they live their lives, the way in which they treat others, etc. Between Jonah’s seeming ease with the father he doesn’t talk to and Cassie’s anger at her mother that she can’t seem to let go, they work together, sometimes unknowingly, to come to conclusions about how to move past the struggles that seem to be overtaking their lives.

Cute references to ‘Star Wars’ and welcome quotes about what it takes to be happy lend credibility to the novel, showing how Cassie’s perspective might just change her life and her relationships in some of the best ways possible. There is some predictability at work in the novel, but it doesn’t take away from the desire to find out how it will all end up. Fans of stories with romance, sightseeing, and a healthy dose of drama will really enjoy ‘Changes in Latitudes’ by Jen Malone. Definitely worth picking up this summer – or any time of the year, for that matter.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Changes in Latitudes’ by Jen Malone here.

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‘Deacon Locke Went to Prom’ by Brian Katcher Book Review

‘Deacon Locke Went to Prom’ by Brian Katcher was somewhat different from many young adult novels. Even though there are YA novels that have a male protagonist, many of the ones I read and review on a regular basis have a female main character. It was also interesting to see the angst and lack of self-confidence of a teen boy whom others see as good-looking and capable of popularity.

Deacon starts the novel with two friends, both of whom are girls – his eating and studying partner – Kelly – and his grandmother, Jean. After his father gets into some skirmishes with the law, Deacon’s grandmother takes him in and raises him as her own as he finishes high school. With the end of the year looming and prom getting ever closer, Deacon can’t help but notice all of the promposals going around. Other guys are really doing it up big as they ask girls to the dance, and Deacon thinks he can pull something off and ask Kelly, but that gets sidelined when another guy beats him to it. With no one left to ask and a feeling that there is nothing to lose, Deacon decides to ask Jean to prom. After all, she never went to her own prom since her future husband was away at war at the time.

This is definitely an interesting premise to start the novel off, and Deacon’s lack of self-assurance is definitely noticeable at all times. When Jean finally agrees to go with him, the beginning of Deacon’s path to a new him is started. From meeting Soraya, the beautiful dance teacher, to becoming a quasi-celebrity, getting into fights, dealing with a forgetful grandmother, and figuring out how astronomy and college fit into his future, Deacon has his work cut out for him.

There were a couple of plot points in the novel that could have been further developed to lend some clarity and intrigue to the storyline. There seemed to be mention of one of the guy characters seeming attracted to Deacon, but this was always shrugged off. The times when it was mentioned were very subtle, so maybe I was picking up on something that wasn’t there, but it seemed to happen more than once, so more on this would have helped bring the novel together more. It would have also been nice to have Deacon’s father around for more than memories of what he had been like in the past. Deacon has issues that are clearly the result of his father’s lack of guidance in his life, and having Deacon confront this would have been a welcome plot point within the novel.

All in all, ‘Deacon Locke Went to Prom’ is a great story by Brian Katcher that covers all the themes that YA likes to offer – crushes, love, family relationships, drama, a few twists and turns, and more. A satisfying and enjoyable read.

You can find ‘Deacon Locke Went to Prom’ by Brian Katcher here.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

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The Young Adult Summer Scavenger Hunt – Find Word #39 Here and Enter Giveaway Below!

WELCOME TO THE YOUNG ADULT SUMMER SCAVENGER HUNT – WORD #39 CAN BE FOUND HERE!

Here are the rules:

Each author has a special keyword, bolded in all capital letters (here’s mine: DRAGONS.) on their site. Some keywords may contain punctuation (mine is one of these – see how there’s a period after the word). Be sure to include the punctuation as you write the story down so you know where one sentence ends and another begins.

Your task is to visit each author’s site in a specific order, write down each individual keyword, discover the short story in doing so, and then enter the giveaway once you have completed the short story (there are 140 words in the short story in total). Here is the link to post your short story once you’ve completed the scavenger hunt: Enter Short Story Here

Some authors have smaller giveaways for free books and more. I’m giving away TWO PRIZES – a copy of each of my books (Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen) to TWO WINNERS. Each of the two winners will be able to choose whether they want them as paperback or Kindle copies. Here is the entry form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, on to the map, otherwise known as the links to each author’s website where the keywords will be found (remember that you’ll have to go to each author’s website in the order they are listed to get the keywords and have them in the right order to make the story come together):

Click Here for the “Map” of Author Websites

Plus, to make it easier for you, here’s the link to find Word #40 on S.L. Beaumont’s site: Find Word #40 Here!

Wishing you the best of luck in completing your keyword scavenger hunt!

Happy reading!

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‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe Book Review

‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe follows nine-year-old Wren as she navigates life after her parents’ divorce. Having gone away for the summer without telling any of her friends why, she is hesitant to share that her parents have decided to get a divorce. Adding insult to injury is the fact that her supposed best friend, Amber, has made a new best friend, Marianna, and doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with Wren.

Even though Wren is keeping a secret from Amber, her worry about what will happen when they find out the truth trumps any common sense she may have. The divorce is clearly not her fault, but she feels diminished by it, and as though her friends will think less of her, so she keeps it a secret. It doesn’t help that nine-year-olds can be extremely fickle, so Amber’s sudden fascination in all things Marianna wears on Wren’s sensibilities. Wren’s mom makes life even harder when she requests that Wren and Marianna walk to the library together (where Wren’s mom is the head librarian) every day after school so Wren isn’t alone, due to the fact that both of Wren’s parents will now be working after school and unable to be with her at home.

At first, Marianna comes across as a spoiled, bratty diva. It is definitely possible for nine-year-olds to encapsulate these qualities; however, Marianna’s way of speaking sometimes seemed too old for her age. Despite Wren’s mistrust and dislike of Marianna from the get-go due to Amber and Wren’s falling out, Wren learns that Marianna has some secrets of her own, and maybe – just maybe – they are more alike than Wren could have thought possible.

In this novel by Julie Bowe, friendships are tested, secrets are kept and revealed, parents are annoying, and life is frustrating. Yet, through it all, the world starts to make more and more sense, and each character’s struggle to find their own path results in finding ways to connect with others as well. This is a fast, sweet, and enlightening story that anyone who loves middle grade novels will truly enjoy.

*Review originally posted at YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)’ by Julie Bowe here.

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‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider Book Review

‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider (a pseudonym based on the dual effort of authors James Noble and Stephanie Elliott) is a story that will capture the magic of the holidays in but a few short hours of plot. In some ways, the thought of two strangers meeting and spending a day and night together roaming the city of New York, only to potentially fall for each other, seems unrealistic and, at best, moderately ridiculous. Yet ‘Kiss Me in New York’ finds a way to do anything but trivialize the relationship between London-bound Charlotte and New Yorker Anthony.

Reeling from breakups by their respective romantic partners, they find themselves thrust together at the airport, trying to fit the pieces of their lives back together. Whereas Charlotte has had a couple of weeks to try to make sense of why ex-boyfriend Colin ended things, Anthony’s troubles are extremely fresh. His now ex-girlfriend, Maya, has broken up with him at the airport, on that very morning – Christmas Eve, no less – only serving to re-open other old wounds that have not yet healed from past Christmases.

Together Charlotte and Anthony brave the cold, dark, and mostly empty streets of New York City, trying to reclaim who they were before their relationships turned sour. Guiding them along is a self-help book Charlotte came upon in the airport – ‘Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps!’ Despite thinking that the book is a scam that won’t serve any purpose in helping them put their past behind them, Anthony goes along with it, and they start following the steps, revealing truths about themselves that they thought long – and best – hidden.

As they learn about themselves as individuals, they also learn about each other, showing that even short amounts of time together can spark true friendship. Charlotte and Anthony’s relationship is a testament to the idea that even the unthinkable – love, or at least friends, at first sight – can come to be. It’s just a matter of believing in yourself and letting yourself be open to every possibility.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Kiss Me in New York’ by Catherine Rider here.

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‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas Book Review

‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas follows new next-door neighbors, and seeming soulmates, Paul and Felicia. Their instant connection at a tag sale (garage sale, if not familiar with this term) is believable, unlike some of the insta-relationships that occur in other books. They both go for the same comic, showing that they clearly have common interests and aren’t just seeing each other based on looks. This was a refreshing change of pace since situations like this one more often occur based on physical attraction.

Little do they know that Paul and his family, having recently moved from Chicago, are Felicia’s next-door neighbors. Their families quickly hit it off. While Paul’s parents are more understanding about his free spirit, despite some attempts by his mother to reign it in, Felicia’s parents are described as much stricter and unbending in their positions. However, this may just be Felicia’s opinion of them, since as the novel progresses, they seem to give a little in terms of they way their viewpoints have been described.

Felicia and Paul’s relationship grows from friendship to something more, but neither of them quite knows what to call it, and Felicia’s insistence that her parents won’t let it grow to be anything more than good friends scares Paul off at times. Their relationships with others factor into this, from friends (or the lack thereof), to girlfriends, potential boyfriends, siblings, and others. Some characters were not fleshed out as much as they could have been, but this is relegated more to the secondary characters, such as Paul’s siblings and even their parents, at times. The parents seemed to act as more of a foil to their relationship, but they did serve their purpose in terms of showing how Felicia deals with everything she thinks is causing strife in her life.

The ending, albeit open-ended, was satisfying enough, but it would have been nice to have a jump ahead to learn more about how their relationship changed with time.

‘The Unforgettables’ is a story of trying to find strength where there doesn’t seem to be any. While Felicia and Paul sometimes succeed and sometimes fail in this pursuit, ‘The Unforgettables’ teaches that relationships can certainly be tested, and life has a way of getting in the way, but truth will always win out.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘The Unforgettables’ by G.L. Tomas here.

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‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert Book Review

‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert has an interesting premise. The main character, Francie, meets Chet, a cute and friendly musician, early on in the novel. They hit it off right away and Francie begins crushing on Chet. Even though it could seem one-sided, Chet seems more than happy to talk with Francie, both via e-mail and through phone and video chats. The novel’s perspective, however, is Francie’s, and therefore Chet’s full intentions are never fully known. There was a lot of potential for further character development, as it was extremely hard to connect with the characters. This is not only meant in terms of Francie and Chet, but also Francie’s friends Stella and Eddie, as well as Chet’s bandmates.

In terms of plot, there was also potential for so much more. There were some highlights, in that some of the characters seemed to not be quite what they seemed as the story progressed. These somewhat “twisty” turns of personality were welcomed, but at the same time, there were often loose ends that didn’t seem to be fully formed. The timeline also often seemed to jump ahead, prompting a look back at previous pages to see if something had happened to make the current scene relevant.

Freedom to do what she wanted was a big theme for Francie. Her parents hardly make life easy for her, from her dad’s drinking to her mom’s enabling of it, and she uses playing tennis and trying to go see Chet and his band as an outlet to enable herself to make some bad decisions as well. This is something that can prove very true for teenagers, and in this way, the novel really hit the mark.

Francie’s relationship with new friend, Stella, despite not being fully formed, as mentioned earlier, was the best one in the novel, in my opinion. Even though Stella often seemed out for herself and herself alone, she did also seem to have Francie’s best interests at heart, even if it didn’t seem apparent. In keeping with talk of Francie’s relationships with her friends, it would have been nice to see Francie give Eddie more of a chance. He clearly had some sort of feelings for her, and further development with this would have made for more excitement in the sense of a triangle between her, Chet, and Eddie.

Fans of crush-at-first-sight and the struggle for independence will find that they can likely connect with the storylines in ‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert.

*Review originally posted on YABooksCentral.com*

You can find ‘Blues Harp Green’ by Nicole Schubert here.

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‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane Book Review

‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane is a story about owning up to one’s past and struggling to find the courage to move on in life. Main character Nev is having a hard time living her life after she moves in with her aunt and cousin. Even though she loves her cousin Livvie and her aunt, she is distraught that she can no longer be with her parents. Life is not going how she hoped it would, and her rocky past, littered with alcohol and hard-core partying, is not doing much to calm her nerves about living a “cleaner” and more relaxed life.

With Livvie by her side, she makes some new friends at her new school, but the one true friendship she feels she makes becomes seriously threatened right from the get-go when the girl’s quasi-boyfriend, Eli, turns out to be more of a player and less of a stand-up guy. Not understanding that no means no, Eli incessantly pesters Nev to go out with him. Her constant refusals only serve as an energy boost of sorts for him, making him even more persistent in his attempts. Not wanting to ruin her relationship with her new friend who is seeing Eli and thinking she can change him, Nev keeps quiet, much to her chagrin later on in the novel when Eli’s jerky ways catch up to her.

In the meantime, however, Nev meets hunky Bodie, who doesn’t seem to like her at first. As time goes on, he sees that she isn’t who he thought she was, and the icy exterior he wore around her begins to thaw, giving way to a hot and heavy relationship that Nev seemingly wants, but is afraid of at the same time, due to what she knows about Bodie’s past and how it intersects with her own feelings of wrongdoing in her own life.

Elisa Dane has shown, through ‘Crushed,’ how first impressions are not always right, life is not always fair, and karma sometimes comes at you when you least expect it. ‘Crushed’ has a little bit of everything a contemporary young adult novel needs – crushes, relationships, parties, conflicts, football, and so much more. Definitely a novel worth checking out.

You can find ‘Crushed’ by Elisa Dane here.

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