Review: The Tower

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Nicole Campbell. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $13.50, 346p. ISBN 9781545411278.

Her fifth novel in just over two years, Nicole Campbell presents The Tower, a young adult story of life, love, death, and loss. Setting her tale in Elizabethtown, Illinois, and distinguishing it with a foundation in witchery, Campbell tells the otherwise familiar story of three teenagers who have grown up together and are now learning how to navigate through the realities of life.

Rowyn, Reed, and Rosalyn are as close as three friends can be. Having been raised as members of the same “Circle,” their families’ beliefs in witchery knit them close as the characteristic that sets them apart from the other kids at school. Outside of their beliefs, though, Rowyn, Reed, and Rosalyn are every-day teenagers that struggle with coming of age, relationships, what to do after high school, and even the effects of sudden tragedy.

While the staple themes of a young adult novel are well carried throughout the novel, the significance of some of the witchery signified in the story isn’t directly communicated. For example, the Tower card is drawn periodically during readings,  but without an understanding of tarot cards and their meanings, the connotation is lost to the reader. It is not until the last page of the book that some connection is made between events in the story and drawings of the Tower card:

“The Tower card hadn’t lied. Everything crumbled and fell, and it took pieces of me with it.” Excerpt From: Nicole Campbell. “The Tower.” iBooks.

Campbell writes well while switching between points of view of each of the teenagers. She is attentive to differing reactions that each character might have to the same event, and is able to understand and communicate emotional struggle. The Tower is an approachable story, remaining realistic in its “paranormal” basis, welcoming any reader of general young adult fiction.

Cover Reveal: Mick & Michelle

Mick & Michelle
Nina Rossing
Published by: Harmony Ink Press
Publication date: October 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Young Adult

Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. Having always been the perfect, good boy, Michelle is terrified that the complicated truth will disappoint, hurt, or push away the people closest to her. She can’t continue hiding for much longer, though, because her body is turning into that of a man’s, and she is desperate to stop the development—desperate enough to consider self-medicating with hormones.

Most of all, Michelle fears that Grandpa, who is in a nursing home after a near fatal stroke, won’t survive the shock if he finds out that his favorite grandchild, and the only boy, is a girl. If she kills her beloved Grandpa by leaving Mick behind, she isn’t sure embracing her real identity will be worth the loss.

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Author Bio:

Nina Rossing lives in Norway, where the winters are long and the summers short. Despite the brilliant nature surrounding her, she spends more time in front of her computer, or with a book in her hands, than in the great outdoors (though you may find her out on her mountain bike if the weather is good). She works as a high school teacher, which in her opinion is probably the best job in the world.

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Review: The Pain Eater

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Beth Goobie. Second Story Press, $13, 244p. ISBN 9781772600209.

Drawing from a childhood of trauma and a self-proclaimed “fragmented” psyche, Canadian poet and author Beth Goobie presents The Pain Eater, a relevant story of a teenage girl who is swallowed by the emotional effects of sexual assault and finds a way to confront her fears.

After being attacked by four masked classmates on her way home from a school production during the last school year, fourteen-year-old Maddy Malone finds herself with a deep-kept secret and a hollowed, introverted personality. In an attempt to bury her shame and fear, Maddy retreats into herself and begins digging her fingernails into the backs of her hands and burning her inner thighs with cigarette butts. Maddy is determined to keep her secret, and pushes away her friends, parents, and sister who have noticed the change in Maddy.

With the arrival of the new school year, Maddy takes her resolution to hide into the hallways with the hope that she can remain invisible. As days pass, Maddy is able to identify three of her attackers, and finds that she shares an English class with two of them. The class begins to write a story about a teenage girl named Farang who “eats” the pain of her fellow villagers, and as each student presents his chapter, Farang’s struggle becomes more and more like Maddy’s until Maddy’s secret is on the brink of coming out.

Beth Goobie utilizes a frame story variation throughout The Pain Eater that uses Maddy’s class story of Farang to explore Maddy’s feelings more openly. The emotional similarities written between Maddy and Farang are made suspiciously obvious. While Farang is unallowed to voice her desires, Maddy is unwilling to talk about her secret. When Farang is finally free from having to endure the pain of her community, Maddy is finally willing to confront her attackers and accept support from the people who care about her. Goobie advances the connections between Maddy’s and Farang’s emotions until Maddy finds the courage to stand again, addressing a tender topic with a strong approach to show that sometimes, a person may find healing in their own way and in their own time.

Cover Reveal: Lost Girl

TITLE: Lost Girl
AUTHOR: Chanda Hahn
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy
RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2016

Wendy doesn’t remember anything about Neverland—or the experiments done on her there as a child. Seven years later, all she wants is a normal life, but shape-shifting shadows plague her dreams and turn her life into a waking nightmare. When the shadows attack at a football game and a boy disappears right in front of her, she realizes these wraith-like shadows are real. They’re not just haunting—they’re hunting.

A mysterious boy named Peter, his foul-mouthed sidekick, and a band of misfit boys intervene before Wendy faces a similar fate. But can they trust Wendy enough to take her to Neverwood Academy and reveal all of their hidden secrets when she’s hiding a secret of her own, or will the dreaded Red Skulls find her and drag her back to Neverland?

Coming December 13th!

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Chanda Hahn is a New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of the Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series. She uses her experience as a children’s pastor, children’s librarian and bookseller to write compelling and popular fiction for teens. She was born in Seattle, WA, grew up in Nebraska and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their twin children.

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OTHER BOOKS BY CHANDA HAHN…
An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series
               
The Iron Butterfly Series
      
Underland

Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

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Chelsea Sedoti. Sourcebooks Fire, $18, 400p. ISBN 9781492636083

From an author who lives in the desert and enjoys hunting down abandoned buildings and haunted houses comes a young adult novel that resists growing up as much as its author did. Chelsea Sedoti’s The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a refreshingly written, coming-of-age story of a small-town girl who takes on a big-time investigation in an effort to find her place and feel belonging.

Hawthorn is a seventeen-year-old girl who struggles with her state of nobodiness. She is conscious of her unpopularity at school, and wonders if she’ll ever experience a “movie kiss”. Notably contrast to Hawthorn is Lizzie Lovett, a girl to whom nothing bad ever happened, who had friends, and whose biggest problem has been “whether to match her shoes to her eyeshadow.”

Although Hawthorn never really knew Lizzie, other than understanding that she would never attain Lizzie’s status of popularity, Hawthorn finds herself trying to uncover what happened to Lizzie on her own. Hawthorn inadvertently accepts Lizzie’s old job at a neighborhood diner and befriends Lizzie’s boyfriend, with whom she shares her own wild theories of what may have happened to Lizzie.

Sedoti buries Hawthorn’s investigation into Lizzie’s disappearance under Hawthorn’s own journey to find belonging. Unless Hawthorn is actively talking about looking for Lizzie, the reader finds himself more engrossed in Hawthorn’s personal struggles. Because of this toggle, with the story of Hawthorn’s personal life taking some prevalence over Hawthorn’s search for Lizzie, the resolution of Lizzie’s disappearance toward the end of the novel comes as a surprise, catching the reader off guard.

Perhaps most refreshing about Chelsea Sedoti’s writing is her ability to put a phrase or conversation on paper exactly how it is thought or said. In Hawthorn’s narration, Sedoti writes “kinda” where the laws of grammar say to use “kind of”, and during the conversations of a chatty teenager, Sedoti stands confident behind run-on sentences. This allows the reader to fully feel as if they are standing in the room with Hawthorn, participating in the investigation and going through Hawthorn’s struggles with her.

As if showing the reader a glimpse back into his or her own teenage years through times of uncertainty, insecurity, and nonacceptance, Chelsea Sedoti weaves a story of a girl looking for meaning into a grim reminder that life is a reality, and calls her finished product The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett.

 

Review: With Malice

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Eileen Cook. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18, 320p. ISBN 9780544805095.

In her latest thriller, With Malice, author Eileen Cook places two girls in Italy and brings only one of them back – with broken bones and memory loss.

Cook opens her novel presenting Ivy League-bound Jill Charron waking up in a hospital, having just been emergency airlifted from Italy and not knowing that she was ever in Europe. After being told about the car accident that left her with a broken leg and aphasia, Jill struggles to put together the pieces of her missing memories. Jill tries to use a hospital phone to call her best friend, Simone, convinced that Simone will be able to fill in the gaps of her memories, but Jill is rudely thwarted by Simone’s parents. Jill later learns that although she and Simone had gone on the school-sponsored trip to Italy together, excited to immerse themselves in all the art and history that Italy has to offer, Simone didn’t return from Italy – and Jill is the leading suspect in Simon’s apparent murder.

Already wrestling with her lack of memory, Jill is burdened with pressure from her family’s lawyer, who is trying to control what the media publishes; from the Italian police, who want to extradite Jill to face charges of manslaughter; and even from her parents, who have doubts of Jill’s innocence. All the while, Jill strives to remember any piece of her time in Italy, her supposed “lover”, and what could’ve caused such an argument to lead Jill to possibly murder Simone.

Cook expertly keeps the reader from deciding between Jill’s innocence or guilt by venturing out of the normal form of writing a novel. Cook builds the story partially through published snippets of blog posts, Facebook posts and comments, text message threads, and interview transcriptions. Cook alternates her chapters from publishing witness accounts and social opinion of the Jill’s innocence or guilt, to progressing Jill’s story as she spending her weeks in therapy and residential care, anticipating the day when she’ll have to go to court. As soon as one piece of evidence is revealed that seemingly proves Jill’s guilt, another eyewitness account is presented that convinces of Jill’s innocence. This method of writing draws the reader into the story, and largely contributes to the thrill of reading on to find the truth.

Cook develops Jill’s character around internal struggles, self-discovery, personal growth, and the questioning of faithfulness, all of which a teenager battles during transition between high school and the “real world.” One common coming-of-age reality that Jill comes to face is the reality that she’s going to have to move forward with college and the rest of her life without her best friend, Simone, whom she’s known since fourth grade. Cook challenges this concept with Jill’s roommate in the recovery home, who teaches Jill to be open to trusting people regardless of how long or how well she knows them.

With Malice is a suspenseful read that explores the values of honesty, loyalty, and friendship, as well as the argument that a person’s real character is only discovered by persevering through difficult times.