[741]: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

A story of new beginnings, friendships, and unbelievable loss that triumphantly celebrates human’s ability to cope and start over again.

I Have Lost My Way
by Gayle Forman

I have not had any success with Ms. Forman’s recent releases lately. But I wasn’t ready to write her off yet. Admittedly, I was filled with dread upon seeing this book. For one, we all know Ms. Forman’s modus operandi. She either leaves her readers in tears, lost in the tumultuous emotions of her characters; or – she leaves them a frustrated mess of, ‘what the hell just happened?’. 

Thankfully, I was left in neither state. Only mildly frustrated by the ending. In a true Gayle Forman fashion, she left me hanging on to the very last word and punctuation. Inertly dissatisfied with the ending. She has that ability to procure a connection between her readers and her characters, you see. You end up wanting to know what happens to them after the story ends. Especially since she’s so adept at writing vague, fade to black endings.

This is the story of three people from different walks of life; unconnected, and dealing with their own personal upheavals. First, we have Freya. A pop singer sensation on the verge of greater success but have recently lost the ability to sing. While she’s trying to figure out what will become of her once the world figures out she can no longer sing, Nathaniel was just getting off the bus to New York. A city that’s a jungle and so much more different than the quiet and solitude of the place he used to call home. Then there’s Harun who’s about to embark on a journey to find himself a wife in his homeland of Pakistan.

They are three people who are lost in their own ways, and who will help each other find their respective directions in life.

I enjoyed this book even if their stories are heart-rending in their own ways. Nathaniel, most especially, is one that broke my heart over and over again. He used to be a normal teen; floundering through high school but somewhat happy despite the strangeness of his upbringing. He had a strong relationship with his father who was suffering from a mental illness and bouts of depression. When his parents split up, he chose to stay with this dad and soon had become estranged from his mother. But then his grandmother died, then lost one eye. He lost the only thing that brought him joy in school (baseball). He since then stopped going because he had to take care of his dad. On a good day, his father will be coherent and well adjusted to the remoteness of the way they lived. On a bad day, he was sporadic. Nathaniel looked after him until he no longer could. I felt for this boy. He lost his way when he lost his father.

While it would be easy to dismiss Freya’s problems, it isn’t in a way. She’s lost her way since her father moved back to Ethiopia. Singing was her way of staying connected to him. But when she inexplicably lost her voice, her life was once again, on the verge of another upheaval. She has a difficult relationship with her mother, as well her sister. But she revels in her popularity in the social media. Losing her voice meant losing her adoring fans.

Harun is gay. But how does a staunch Muslim boy who believes in prayers and respecting the doctrine go on pretending that his heart does not belong to another man?

Gayle Forman perfectly knitted all three stories in a neat package. A common thread amongst the three is the question of how to proceed in life after going through cataclysmic awakenings. The characters were bestowed with distinct voices, and their friendship is at times, awkward but made all the more poignant by the way each was desperate to hold on to the other.

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[740]: Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi

At times funny, emotional & poignant story of friendship, love and piecing yourself after the death of a toxic relationship.

Emergency Contact
by Mary HK Choi

Emergency contact was surprisingly heavy. At least, from Sam’s perspective, that is. He’s practically homeless if not for his generous employer who lets him room in a place no bigger than a closet. His life hasn’t been a walk in the park since day one. His mom went through men and had long since become an alcoholic who could care less if Sam survives childhood. The only saving grace he ever got from his mom’s doomed relationships was the friendship of his step-niece.

But life is not through with him yet. His on again and off again relationship was on its last breath – however desperate he might be to hold on. His ex-walks back into his life with news that she might be pregnant. And so it goes. He was drowning.

Penny Lee, on the other hand, wants to escape for a different reason altogether. Her life is a doldrum circle of school, having a relationship with a boy who knows nothing about her, and living with a mom who has the entire world in the palm of her hands. She’s a good mom, by anybody’s standards. She just doesn’t know how to be a mother to Penny.

Penny & Sam would start a texting friendship that begins when Penny saves Sam. And at the end of the book, Sam will save Penny back.

This book did not lack for bouts of aggravation. I had to be patient and generous. And while my heart went out for Sam, I also wanted to knock his head on the wall for not recognizing how desperate – and not in a good way – he was being.

And then there’s Penny. I really don’t understand why she was mad at her mom. Celeste tried her best to be the best mom for Penny but I felt like she never gave her mother a chance. The lack of communication on Penny’s part frustrated me. Celeste couldn’t possibly know what Penny wanted if she doesn’t speak up. And ignoring her mom’s calls and text messages just made it worst. It felt like she was dead set on widening the gap.

But after everything is said in done, this book eventually won my heart. I love the maturity they both went through and recognizing the part they played in the ennui of their respective relationships. Overall, you have to wade through all the rough parts till you get to the good parts of Emergency Contact. Just be patient, and you’ll discover a good, unflinching story about relationships and how easy it was to lose oneself to another if we’re not careful.

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[682]: The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

28763485 The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Stand Alone
Double Day Canada | November 1st, 2016
Source: ARC Paperback from Penguin Random House Canada
Young Adult Fiction | Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Nicola Yoon has become an instant star in the annals of contemporary fiction for young adults. And this after only releasing one book under her belt. Everything, Everything showed me a glimpse of Nicola’s writing chops that I’ve only seen in some of the more experienced authors out there. She immortalized Maddie in such a revealing acuity. She also handled the delicate topic of a serious disease that may or may not have been brought on by an overprotective instinct by a mother that only wanted to protect her child. In this book, however, she goes beyond the personification of the main characters. She gave insights on side characters and nuances that was both amusing and somewhat informative. All the while tying them all in a nice cohesive bow of this story.

In this book, she tackles the plight of a couple of young immigrants in America. One is about to be deported. And the other, an American-born Korean boy whose future is already predetermined by his parents.

Having been situated in America for several years, Natasha has acclimated well in her life as an American teenager. She is determined to succeed and does very well in school. She doesn’t take anything for granted because she knows the alternative is a life back home where the future is unknown. Natasha is a big believer of things that can be explained. Love, God, and fate are words that give her pause.

By contrast, Daniel’s future is set in stone if his parents has a choice in the matter. But Daniel is a dreamer; a poet who believes in serendipity and love. If they’d met under different circumstances, and if time was on their side, Daniel and Natasha could’ve lived everyday discovering what makes them the way they were. But they live in a reality where their parents’ hopes, dreams, and indiscretions are hopelessly tied to their own.

This book has a lot of moments characteristic of a contemporary read. But underneath the surface belies the seriousness of what typically happens to the lives of immigrants in America. The family does what they can to survive, to make their dreams a reality. But sometimes, hard work is not enough. Nicola Yoon showed that with an honest clarity that a person like me (an immigrant) can whole-heartedly relate. I’ve seen my parents worked 12-15 hours everyday just to get us out of the basement we lived in when we got here. And while things turned out well for us, it sure hasn’t been easy. It’s the same reality I saw in Daniel’s and Natasha’s parents.

Daniel’s parents were well on their way to the fruition of their dreams, if only their oldest son didn’t screw up his short stint in Harvard. That’s why they’re doing everything they can for him to get accepted in Yale. On the other hand, Natasha’s parents only ever saw hardship. Because of the bad choices her father made fueled by his determination to pursue his dreams, things didn’t go so well for Natasha’s family.

Once again, Nicola Yoon delivers another unforgettable story rich in love, family, and diversity. It’s not all fun and games, but her succinct intuitiveness in all things about culture, race, and relationships shine cover to cover.

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[649]: This Is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer


Balzer + Bray | May 10th, 2016 | 4 out of 5 Stars

Socially awkward brainiacs has a special place in my heart.  I feel a certain inexplicable kinship towards them that is in protective almost. I admire the way they see life without the emotional hang-ups that muddle it all. It’s in the way they can compartmentalize and explain their feelings with utter practicality. They’re walking encyclopedias full of knowledge about anything and everything, but completely useless when it comes to relationships and social interactions. I knew I had to read this book in part because it had undertones of Jane Austen’s Emma. And with a character who thinks and speaks like The Rosie Project’s Don Tillman, I was more than willing to clear my nightstand of other books in favor of This is My Brain on Boys.


Addie has a scientific answer for everything. All human emotions and reactions can be rationalized through the body’s biological and chemical make-ups. She has a tendency to sound like a robot, but her sensible view on life is what makes her unintentionally funny.  If Don Tillman had a daughter, Addie would’ve been it. She is infinitely fascinated with the human brain and the way it functions. She’s able to quantify falling in and out of love as a result of a chemical being produced and expelled through one of life’s irrational experience. In some ways, she’s a teen but she’s only able to slowly embrace it through daily interactions with her little circle of friends.  She has no illusions regarding her physical attributes and sees herself as the world sees her. I couldn’t help but feel protective of her in as much as Tess, her best friend, likes to make sure no one can mess with her.  She’s like a daughter I want to coddle all the time because she’s kind of vulnerable. But given the time to think things through, she finds her way out of bad situations. She’s funny but she doesn’t aim to be. She just is.

Trauma = Love

People have been known to develop a closeness through a shared traumatic experience. But what if Science can prove that two subjects can fall in love with another if they were involved in a dangerous situation? This is what she aimed to prove in her entry for an award that will grant her a scholarship. The Emma twist in this story is that she falls in love with her subject. However, she didn’t know that he was partly responsible for the vandalism that happened in her lab.

Kris is a boy about the world, animal rights activist and an all around good guy. He’s about to serve his sentence for vandalizing Addie’s lab. Besides helping out as a groundskeeper, Kris’ punishment was to enlist in a Science experiment. I love that we see both Kris’ and Addie’s perspective. We see their motivations and their own insecurities. Kris is a conscientious boy whose heart was in the right place. Unfortunately, he got involved with the wrong crowd. Their quasi-romance was sweet; almost non-existent but you see how much they like each other through musings and observations.

In Retrospect

Most have bemoaned the fact that Addie talks like Sheldon. But come on, who doesn’t adore Sheldon? She’s very serious in her conviction which I find wholly admirable. This book is funny and sweet; smart and heartfelt. I couldn’t ask for a more awkward brainiac than in Addie.

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[633]: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum


Tell Me Three Things

by Julie Buxbaum

I love and hate this book in equal measure. It is a dangerous book to read because it has the ability to put you in a deep reading rut. I feel like I should apologize to The Raven King because I can barely get through its first hundred pages; which is a damn shame because I’ve been waiting forever and a day to read it. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to finish a single book since finishing this one. And for the life of me, I just can’t move on. Depending on the type of reader you are, Tell Me Three Things can be hazardous to the health of your TBR pile. It’s either going to reaffirm your love for the written word or as in my case, it will stunt your reading groove.

Truthfully, I’m envious of those who haven’t discovered the sweetness of Tell Me Three Things. The romance, the characters, the storyline, and the dialogues – everything about it is a reminder of why I can never stop reading YA. Some books with a high school setting typically have the opposite effect on me. Most of the time, I can barely tolerate it. But this book exemplifies the type of contemporary YA I will keep coming back to.

It features a couple of characters who are adorably awkward in their own ways; the loss of their loved ones contributed to them being socially stunted – introverts, in their own respects. Somebody Nobody, for one, was living a double life. His other persona, though gregarious on the surface, was a reluctant participant in the social hierarchy in which he occupies a closer to the top wrung. He shies away from it which makes him a novelty and irresistible to girls and boys alike.

In contrast, Jesse stumbled on pretty much every facet of her new life. Having recently lost her mother and her dad consequently marrying almost soon after, her new life in Los Angeles is a far cry from the comfort of Chicago. She lives in a mansion. She goes to a prestigious school where everyone is practically a typical Californian. To top it off, she has a stepbrother who would rather forget that they ever existed. The only saving grace that stopped  her from running back to Chicago was the correspondence from an online good Samaritan who felt the need to befriend her, albeit, anonymously. Somebody Nobody gave her guidance and tutelage with regards to the working annals of her new school.

Though the author did her best to give us viable suspects on the identity of SN, I half-expected, half-hoped who he was. The contenders gave me pause, made me think of the possibility at least.  There’s Liam who was responsible for her part-time job at the bookstore his family owns; Caleb – the all around goofball and friend to Liam. Then there’s Ethan – a loner, aloof, an enigma with a predilection to Batman t-shirts. I loved “trying” to solve the identity of SN. Let me tell you that it’s not going to take you long before you catch on. But the mystery is just gravy, in my opinion.

Indeed, this book is a mine of story niches. It’s lovely and touching; funny and smart. I love watching Jess figure out how to navigate her new life despite grieving for her mother and dealing with abandonment issues from her father. I love watching her slowly accept the reality of having a step family. I eventually loved her step brother whom, when push came to shove, would protect her from the token Mean Girls of the school. Characters, even secondary ones, grew on me. They made me laugh and made me grin like a fool at inopportune moments. I especially adore Jesse’s interactions with “my suspect”.

Once in a while, I find a book like this that becomes an instant favorite within a couple of chapters into reading it. It’s in the way the story is constructed; the characters imagined. It’s in the ease in which I fall helplessly in love with everything that’s unfolding before me. And once in a while, there’s a book like this that makes me lose my appetite for everything else on my shelves. For that reason, I almost wish I never read the book in the first place. Almost, but not quite.

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