16181775Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Pages: 295
Year: 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Time taken to read: 24 hours
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver. Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I don’t really know where to start with this one. The Rosie Project hit very close to home for me because I sort of have my own Don Tillman, though he doesn’t want me to reveal his identity on here because he’s very private. But my point in mentioning it is that my review and my rating are pretty biased because I already loved Don before I started reading, and I saw myself in Rosie too. So I read this book obsessively in just 24 hours, some of those hours being on the subway, which typically makes me nauseous, but I had no choice. I was addicted to this story.

I saw a lot of reviewers on Goodreads saying that they are “no expert on Asperger’s” or even that they had never even met someone with what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they believe Don is “nothing like people with Asperger’s” and other obviously ridiculous statements. I guess I’m not technically an expert either, but after living with a person with ASD and spending every day for almost four years interacting with them, I think I maybe know what I’m talking about a little bit, and I have to say as far as my knowledge goes, Don was a great portrayal of the disorder. I read one review about how it was terrible that Don debates with himself whether or not he’s capable of love, because people with ASD have very deep feelings that they just can’t express. This is true, and the book showed that. Rosie wanted love to be expressed in a certain way, and Don just didn’t, and that made him doubt his ability to love until the two of them realized, as I have realized, that everyone shows love differently, and sometimes, when people are really different and their brains work in seemingly opposite ways, you have to train yourself to recognize that person’s way of expressing love. And doing that is really hard, but you do it when you have a connection with someone that defies all logic, like with Don and Rosie. I also think that this book brings up a really important topic even for those without ASD about how much you should change for a person. I think if the changes you’re making are clearly for the better, like how Don is trying to be a kinder person, not just for Rosie but for everyone in his life, then it’s okay. A lot of people on Goodreads also said that it was unrealistic that he changed so much, but I think they’re wrong too. In the time I’ve known my Don, he has become drastically nicer and more understanding and open. He’s still very much himself, but he’s softer, and his whole family has noticed the changes. And he works on himself for me, but also for his family and friends and coworkers, and it feels right to him.

My one criticism (spoiler alert) is that his proposal and her acceptance of it seemed a little odd. I wasn’t sure exactly how long they had known each other at that point, but I thought it would have been better if he proposed and Rosie was like, “Hey pal, love the enthusiasm, but let’s try dating normally first.” But they’re much older than me, so that might account for the rush. Either way, I’m giving this five stars and no one can stop me, and I’ve been recommending it to people at B&N all week. I convinced my Don to read this book, and I told him, “I know you’re going to hate this. Don would never read this book.” But he really understood that it’s important to me, and I’m excited to hear his opinions, which I will share with you all in my future review of the sequel, The Rosie Effect.

15937108Title: Counting by 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Pages: 380
Year: 2013
Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 6 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisWillow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

I really wanted to give this book five stars. Counting by 7s is so close to being perfect. Willow Chance is an amazing girl, and I wish I could adopt her myself. Mai and Quang-ha and Pattie are all amazing too, and together they make such a beautiful and diverse family. Despite my typical reservations on this topic, I loved the change in perspectives. You would think it would be so weird and complicated switching from first person present tense to third person past tense and back, but it worked so flawlessly. It was perfect for this book, though I probably wouldn’t encourage other writers to use it. It seems like the type of thing that can only work in very specific books. I am also impressed by all the research that must have gone into this Counting by 7s, from the Vietnamese language to types of plants.

A lot of reviewers on Goodreads feel like the ending wrapped itself up a little too neatly. I see their point, but I think a lot of these people are forgetting that they’re reading a book for children. Neat, happy endings are okay. I do agree with one thing, though (spoiler ahead): Pattie let her kids live in a garage when she had the money to buy a whole apartment building, and that doesn’t make sense. Well, I see how it could make sense. I can relate to living in conditions that I don’t need to live in in an attempt to save money so that I can live in much better conditions in the future, but I don’t understand why Pattie wouldn’t let her kids at least live somewhere normal, but she’ll buy the whole building for Willow, whom she’s known for a few months. A lot of people are saying, and it feels natural to do so, that she’s doing this for Willow when she won’t even do it for her actual kids, but as a future adoptive parent, I don’t like that language, because an adopted child is just as much that person’s child as their biological children. But I still think it doesn’t add up for her to do that upon the addition of Willow to her family and not before. I think it would have been just as easy and just as satisfying to have Pattie decide to move them all into an apartment, and the money could have come from the increase in customers at the nail salon due to Willow’s changes.

That’s part of what brought my rating down–not so much what happened at the end but more the fact that a more believable but just as happy ending was so easy. But the other thing that brought my rating down was Dell Duke. A lot of this is my own bias: I don’t trust men with children. I realize that Dell doesn’t actually do any harm to Willow, but in my experience, men, especially men like Dell, are careless, and they can’t see past themselves and are therefore incapable of helping others. I realize how this statement could be interpreted as “unfair” because “not all men” blah blah blah, but I don’t really care. Dell made me very uncomfortable. He should not have had those children in his car, and he should not have taken them out to eat despite the fact that that’s what they wanted to do. He was beyond unprofessional and irresponsible as a guidance counsellor. I don’t care how much he was “redeemed” at the end. He creeped me out.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone. I think it would have been an inspirational read for me as a middle schooler, and I wish I could send it back in time to my twelve-year-old self. As for my twenty-two-year-old self, I interviewed for the coveted Writers House internship on Monday. I had to read a manuscript and provide a critique for them last week, and it turned out that they liked it! They told me they started with 1200 applicants and interviewed 40, and that this is why they do the writing assignment–lots of people had several great internships on their resume while all I have is retail at Barnes & Noble, but that doesn’t matter if they can’t do the work. That made me feel really good and really capable, even if I don’t end up getting it. I was just doing what I already do here, and what I love to do more than anything else! I love New York!

29236380Title: Girl in Pieces
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Pages: 416
Year: 2016
Publisher: Delacorte (Random House)
Time taken to read: 5 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisCharlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. A deeply moving portrait of a teenage girl on the verge of losing herself and the journey she must take to survive in her own skin, Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

I read an excerpt from this in the Buzz Books 2016 YA fall/winter edition, and I was really excited for it to come out. The majority of the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, but I’m not sure I agree with them. For the most part, I enjoyed reading this, but I was really frustrated with Charlie. It was painful for me to watch her make poor decisions over and over. I felt bad for her, but that was really all I could feel because there was so much going on. I think it’s amazing that writers are tackling difficult issues like self-harm and abuse, but I also think the messages that these books need to send are far more effective if a writer tackles on issue at a time. I was so overwhelmed by all the crap in Charlie’s life that it didn’t leave me much space to really think about the issues at hand. None of the events or the issues really mean anything to me, and it’s hard to connect with Charlie. I thought Riley was a terrible person but a pretty good character. I really enjoyed hating him, and I was thrilled every time he f***ed up even worse, because then I could hate him more. His sister Julie is the best person in this book and she honestly deserves an award.

A lot of people on Goodreads are comparing this to Girl, Interrupted, which didn’t even occur to me until I read some reviews because this is fiction and Susanna Kaysen’s book is not. And then I realized, the portion of this book that takes place in a psych ward is exactly like Girl, Interrupted. Like, Blue is Lisa, and Louisa is Daisy. That bothers me a bit because it feels like Glasgow kind of stole not only from Kaysen’s book but from her life. Truthfully, the scenes in the hospital were my favorite, and I wish the book would have stayed there longer, but maybe with some more original characters. Unlike a lot of reviewers, I did enjoy the writing style. I particularly liked the tiny recurring chapters where it was just a paragraph of Charlie’s thoughts with a lot of words in italics. That makes no sense unless you’ve read the book, but if you have, you know what I mean. For some reason those paragraphs felt like the way I think a lot. I read one review, though, that said that this book seemed to be more like a creative writing exercise than an actual book, which I feel is really accurate.

I think if you’re interested in YA books on mental health, I would give this one a go. It’s a good one to analyze and compare to other books on the topic. I want to say that you shouldn’t expect it to be all that great, but so many people seem to love it, so who knows.

15777621Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Pages: 288
Year: 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, This Song Will Save Your Life is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

This is another one of those books that’s been on my to-read list for like my entire life. By the end of the first chapter I loved Elise because her thought process is too much like mine. I love that she’s like, you know what, even the nice girls are mean, and that’s just too much for me in this cruel world, so I’m just gonna end it. She’s so calm and methodical about attempting suicide, and to me it was funny because I’ve totally been there. I also got super excited at her comment on being pro gun control! And I love how obsessed she is with being good at things, and being good at them quickly, because again, I’m the same way. Honestly Elise was a perfect character until the thing with Alex and the poetry castle. That almost completely ruined her for me, because that was the most messed up thing ever.

I’m not a big music person (except when it comes to Nicki Minaj and Disney soundtracks), so the whole DJing/music aspect was a little lost on me because I didn’t know any of the songs they were talking about, but it was still interesting. Vicky is a great character and a great person, and I love the representation of amazing heavy girls. And Char is obviously the worst in every way, which was why it was so satisfying when she uncovers his real life at the end and realizes he is not worth it at all. I think this book teaches a lot of great lessons about what’s really important in life, and it could be really useful to high school girls who are feeling left out and invisible. I probably would be giving it five stars if it was about something like writing instead of music, because then I could identify even more with Elise, but that’s just my personal thing.

Anyway, happy Friday, readers! I am working on writing one of these reviews for a manuscript sent to me by a literary agency as sort of a test for an internship there, so I must get back to that quickly, because it’s due in about 24 hours. Wish me luck!

41qR8-Qq-sLTitle: Seinfeldia
Author:Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Pages: 320
Year: 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Time taken to read: 8 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis:The hilarious behind-the-scenes story of two guys who went out for coffee and dreamed up Seinfeld—the cultural sensation that changed television and bled into the real world, altering the lives of everyone it touched. […] In Seinfeldia, acclaimed TV historian and entertainment writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong celebrates the creators and fans of this American television phenomenon, bringing readers behind-the-scenes of the show while it was on the air and into the world of devotees for whom it never stopped being relevant, a world where the Soup Nazi still spends his days saying “No soup for you!”, Joe Davola gets questioned every day about his sanity, Kenny Kramer makes his living giving tours of New York sights from the show, and fans dress up in Jerry’s famous puffy shirt, dance like Elaine, and imagine plotlines for Seinfeld if it were still on TV.

I am a pretty big Seinfeld fan. I’ve seen every episode at least once, though probably more, and I’ve always thought of myself as a young redheaded Elaine Benes, considering she’s a writer/editor and I want to be that, and also she has giant hair and is crazy like me. I’ve also especially been into reading and watching things set in NYC since I moved here three weeks ago. So I really enjoyed reading about the making of the show and the way they blended fiction and reality in ways I had never realized. Obviously the show that Jerry and George try to write is supposed to be the fictional version of Seinfeld, but I did not know, for example, that so many of the little plot lines are based off experiences of the writers, or that so many characters are based off real people connected to the show. I honestly didn’t know that Seinfeld was such a huge deal when it was on the air, and I also didn’t know that it nearly failed for the first few seasons. I read almost the first half of the book in one sitting because it was really fun to read, and it put me in a very funny mood, though I haven’t had time to watch any Seinfeld since finishing it. It only loses a star in my rating because I think it spent too much time at the end on a Twitter account made about what the show would be like if it were set in the 2010s, which wasn’t interesting enough to warrant the amount of pages it got.

Anyway, as much as books are my thing, I absolutely love TV as well, and back in high school I considered trying to write for sitcoms because I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty funny person. So it was fun to read about TV, and if you enjoy Seinfeld too, I definitely recommend reading this book. I imagine the next time I watch the show, I’ll be looking at it very differently, imagining what the actors were going through at the time. Especially because they haven’t been in much else, I rarely think of them as real people, just as their characters. Elaine and George are my favorites, and they feel really real to me. 14233084_1020418368077462_5565011772726706899_nAlso, I went to the famous Tom’s Restaurant yesterday (yep, that’s me in the photo, and yes, that’s my real hair), which Seinfeld fans know is the front of the diner they always go to! I got a half vanilla half butter pecan milkshake, which was phenomenal, and I tasted my dad’s cheesecake, which I also highly recommend. My dad and his girlfriend and my sister came to visit me yesterday and I had the idea to go here for coffee and dessert, and we didn’t tell my dad’s girlfriend where we were going because she’s a huge Seinfeld fan (might have something to do with her being Jewish), and she was so excited when we got there. The book says that Tom’s didn’t really try to make any money off of being a Seinfeld landmark, but they have a big Seinfeld sign out front, and there are signed posters and such inside, so I’m not sure why the author didn’t mention that that’s changed since Seinfeld aired. But anyway, my point is, go to Tom’s and get a milkshake.

22749695Title: The Trap
Author: Steven Arntson
Pages: 256
Year: 2015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for  Young Readers
Time taken to read: 4 hours
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisIt’s the summer of 1963, and something strange is afoot in the quiet town of Farro, Iowa. The school district’s most notorious bully has gone missing without a trace, and furthermore, seventh grader Henry Nilsson and his friends have just found an odd book stashed in the woods by Longbelly Gulch—a moldy instruction guide written to teach the art of “subtle travel,” a kind of out-of-body experience. The foursome will soon discover that out-of-body life isn’t so subtle after all—there are some very real, and very dangerous, things happening out there in the woods. The science fiction inventiveness of Madeleine L’Engle meets the social commentary of Gary Schmidt in this thrilling tale of missing persons, first crushes, embarrassing pajamas, and thought-provoking dilemmas.

As much as I love YA and children’s books, I actually don’t find myself reading a lot of middle grade books, although obviously I was always attached to one when I was, like, seven years old. I read this one because I’m interviewing at a literary agency in a few weeks for an internship there, and I thought it would probably be good to have read at least one book that they’ve represented. I did not plan to finish this book in one sitting when I took it down to Central Park yesterday, but here we are.

I liked the setting a lot. I thought it was really neat to have the layers of sci-fi and fantasy and civil rights and racism. Although, when I explained the plot to my boyfriend, he said, “Okay, I buy the ghosts and the astral projection, but you lost me when you said the book claims someone in Iowa in the 1960s knows both someone who’s Native American and someone who’s Chinese.” Truthfully, I had the same thought while reading this, but I love representation, and especially in a children’s book where there are ghosts running around, I don’t really care how logical that representation is. (I honestly don’t know if it’s illogical or not. I know nothing about Iowa or the 1960s.)

The actual plot was okay. I was interested enough to want to know what was going to happen, and like I said, I did finish the book in one sitting. I thought the whole thing with the Fibonacci sequence and the “subtle self” was a little weird and creepy, but it was creative, and I suppose I can see how a kid would enjoy it. Henry was a pretty fun main character. I liked the twin dynamic, although I did not appreciate his remarks in the beginning about how she should have had the bike that was “for boys” because she was the tougher one. I don’t deny that kids think like that, especially decades ago, though still mostly now too, but it definitely had no place in a book like this. If you’re writing for children, you have to be mindful of the messages you’re sending.

In any case, this was a fun read, but now I have to go be a real adult and do real adult things like pay my rent and go to work. I am very excited for the start of September tomorrow! If you have any recommendations for good autumn reads, please let me know. And if there are any fans of middle grade books reading this, tell me your favorite! Maybe I will read more middle grade stuff.

15390575Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Pages: 304
Year: 1998
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 5 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisThe world is a terrible place not to have a best friend. Scarlett was always the strong one. Halley was always content to follow in her wake. Then Scarlett’s boyfriend died, and Scarlett learned that she was pregnant. Now Halley has to find the strength to take the lead and help Scarlett get through it. Because true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

This is my sixth Sarah Dessen book, and it is by far my favorite. I am entertained by her stories even when I don’t think they’re perfectly crafted or particularly unique, but this one was different, and it’s actually one of her earliest books.

As you might be able to guess from my own novel-in-progress, I love friendship stories so so so much more than romances. I felt truly envious of the main characters of Someone Like You because they have such an amazing friendship. As Dessen does, there were definitely elements of romance in this book, but that took a backseat to Halley and Scarlett’s relationship. You guys might know from my earlier reviews that Laurie Halse Anderson is my favorite writer ever, because she tackles the real, difficult issues that teenagers face, the issues like PTSD and eating disorders that are too messy and taboo for other authors to write about. I felt like this is the only book of Dessen’s that I’ve read that has really risen to that level of writing about issues that are hard and ugly and that are constantly being swept under the rug. Scarlett is pregnant at sixteen, and she is brave and funny and honest. She is not anyone to look down upon because of her circumstances, and Dessen makes that so clear. And then there’s Halley, who’s dealing with the issue of her virginity and what it means to her, and Dessen’s message is clear again. Your virginity is allowed to mean something to you, and it is allowed to not. You are allowed to want to save it for whomever you think is the right person, and you are allowed to not value it in that way. Neither view is bad. Neither view is wrong. All that matters is that you do what feels right to you, and that it’s consensual. And I love the way Halley owns what’s important to her, and as much as Macon wants to whine and complain, she says, “This is about me.” (243) And girls should know, it’s always about you. You owe nothing to any guy, no matter what they say or do.

These are all really amazing messages to send to young girls, and I wanted so badly to give this book five stars, but I couldn’t because of one problem. There are multiple lines, either in dialogue or narration, I don’t remember exactly, that specifically put down fat teenagers, and that really bothered me. Like near the end when they’re at prom, and Halley points out that even “one of the fattest girls in school” was there, and that’s just completely not necessary. (259) That adds absolutely nothing to a story. It only isolates heavy girls who could be reading this book and seeing themselves in this character, mentioned once and only to point out her size in a negative light, and if I had that experience while reading this, it would probably be enough to make me never want to read a YA novel again. I sincerely hope that Dessen has realized her mistake and has taken care not to do this again in her novels since, and her future novels. I almost said that I hope she has “made the effort” to not do it again, but really does not take any effort to not say nasty things about someone’s size. Zero effort.

That being said, this is still my favorite Dessen novel so far. As I’m sure I’ve said before, I plan to read all her books eventually, and I am very excited for her new one coming out next year! In the meantime, if you’re looking for a Dessen novel to read, definitely go for Someone Like You.