Out of the Easy: Tough-talkin’, gunslingin’, wanna-be college girl

Out of the Easy CoverThank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of Out of the Easy in exchange for an honest review.

I meant to read Out of the Easy sooner after receiving it in my swag bag at last year’s Ontario Book Bloggers Meet-Up but I ended up moving, traveling and changing jobs — which completely derailed all my reading and blogging plans.

But I’m really glad I finally read Ruta Septys’ Out of the Easy. Based in 1950’s New Orleans, Josie Moraine is a teenager hoping to get into college. Her mother is a prostitute at a whore house run by a tough lady named Willie. Josie opts out of her mother’s lifestyle by working at a bookstore — but the temptation of easy money follows her every move.

OVER_voodooThis is a fun YA-novel with a cast of colourful characters. Josie is fantastically strong and weak at all the right times. Willie is wise beyond her years. Love interest Patrick starts off boring but ends up somewhat interesting. Love interest no. 2 Jesse starts off interesting but ends up boring. Cokie delivers some hilarious lines but Josie’s nut job mother has a few of her own. I loved the mentions of voodoo folklore like the black hand — which I only knew about from playing Monkey Island.

The first few chapters in, I rolled my eyes a little bit because it seemed so unrealistic: A prostitute’s daughter with a heart of gold that has helpers all over the town watching her back. Pretty unlikely story but in the end, it was just fun to see who she’d run into next. My only real disappointment was the ending. Nothing really wrapped up. It’s as if Sepetys was already thinking about a second book…

I recommend Out of the Easy to fans of The Virgin Cure, Parlor Games and Scorpio Races. Oh and Chanel Bonfire if you enjoy bad and beautiful mothers.

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Photo credit: etsy.com, etsy.com

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Sever Wraps Up Chemical Gardens Trilogy

SEVERI can’t tell you how excited was I get my paws on Sever, the last book in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Gardens Trilogy. And it doesn’t disappoint. I was very, very satisfied with the ending of this series.

While there are a couple surprising twists, the outcome is fairly predictable. But don’t mistake predictability for bad. The execution is perfect and DeStefano wraps up every juicy detail in this final book.

SEVER_garden3We learn more about Rhine’s parents, find out what happened to the love of her life and even Madame makes a surprise appearance. The biggest twist is probably the role of Housemaster Vaughn. I also found Sever wasn’t nearly as dark as the second book, Fever. For anyone that’s read Fever, Rhine finally stops puking everywhere – hurray!

I feel that I’m a lot harder on young adult lit but The Chemical Gardens Trilogy really hit a nerve for me. For one, it’s a completely believable dystopia. In a attempt to make their children immune from every disease and illness, the United States have created the perfect new generation.

But it’s not until the second generation of perfect children that they discover a problem. The girls are dying at 20 and the boys only make it to 25. Now, the research community is obsessed with finding a cure for the dying generation. Couldn’t you see something like that happening? I can.

I’d like to send a big congratulations to Lauren DeStefano to finishing the series with a bang! I only wish some other series (cough, Hunger Games, cough) could have done the same.

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Teenagers Kissing to Death

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Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a copy of Who I Kissed in exchange for an honest review.

For those who know me well, they know that I have a ton of allergies. The Great Outdoors practically becomes lethal during spring and summer. So when I flipped to the inscription of Janet Gurtler’s Who I Kissed, I had to read it:

“For Max. And for everyone with a severe food allergy. Be safe.”

Who I Kissed is about a high school student named Samantha who is a competitive swimmer. That is until she kisses a boy at party and he dies from an allergic reaction to the peanut butter sandwich she ate hours before. Samantha feels responsible for his death and she can’t move past it. She even gives up on swimming.

I liked Who I Kissed but it was hard not to compare it to Speechless by Hannah Harrington. Who I Kissed also deals with feelings of guilt, accepting responsibility and being ostracized as a teenager but it’s also terribly cliched and predictable. And why does every student in this high school have to be a star athlete? Where are the band geeks, stoners and (gasp) fat kids? Everyone is just a little too perfect in this story and that’s what made it hard to buy into.

While I can’t dislike any story that discusses epipens, I also wanted a lot more from this book. Side note: I have no food allergies but even if I did, it wouldn’t stop me from kissing. It’s just too much fun.

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No encore for dancergirl

DANCER_girlThank you to Harlequin Teen for sending me a copy of dancergirl via The Ontario Book Bloggers Meet-Up in exchange for an honest review.

The Internet can be a scary place especially for the young and vulnerable. Internet bullying has grown so bad that teens have committed suicide over it. That’s what interested me about dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman. The cover snippet reads “The videos went viral”.

Unfortunately, I found that dancergirl fell flat. Everything was just too predictable. Alicia Ruffino, a high school sophomore and contemporary dancer, agrees to be filmed dancing for a friend’s AV project. The videos quickly become a big hit online. But when someone mysteriously makes a voyeuristic video of her dancing in the privacy of her own home, it gets creepy. What’s more, the video goes viral and Alicia becomes Internet-famous.

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Working in PR, I hate the word viral because it’s always phrased as “How do we make this go viral?” While it’s impossible to predict what goes viral, once it’s out there, there’s no turning back. And what happens when it’s something you don’t want out there? And what if it happens when you’re young, when you have a whole lifetime of relatives, boyfriends and bosses ahead of you? Do you really want that video of you dancing in your underwear out there?

These are all important questions but dancergirl doesn’t touch on any major issues which is fair enough but some aspects of the book just didn’t seem believable. For one, Alicia’s mother never finds out. Even though the whole town and the next town over knows. Even though her mother is an incessant worrier. Even when they figure out who did the creepy filming!

I can see dancergirl being a hit for its intended audience: young adults — particularly young adults who are into theatre and dance. Tanzman herself is from that world so she writes well about the pressures and pleasures of performance. But no standing ovation from me for this one.

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Photo credit: weheartit.com, pinterest.com

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