The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord

RATING: ★★★★★

I've read When World Collide before and I absolutely loved Emery Lord's way of writing and the complex characters she creates. The Names They Gave Us is no exception to that, with the main character Lucy stealing my heart from the very first page.

Lucy's summer before senior year of high school is unlike any she has had before - her mother has been diagnosed, for the second time, with cancer. However, unlike the first time when Lucy wouldn't leave her mother's side, this time her mother wants her to be a counsellor at Daybreak, a summer camp for troubled children. While Lucy initially doesn't want to do this, she does it for her mother, and discovers a lot about her own troubles through working with the kids.

A lot of reviewers bring up the faith aspect of The Names They Gave Us and yes, this is a book mostly about faith. I wouldn't even say religion, even though Lucy's father is a pastor and she helps her parents at church champ most summers of her life. While Lucy starts off very religious, her mother's reoccurring cancer makes her question everything she thought she knew. This book really cycles her person belief system and how to find the strength to overcome your worst nightmare. I actually thought this aspect was refreshing, since there aren't many YA novels that focus on religion, faith and inner spirituality. Emery Lord approached this topic in an open-minded way that I think can be really helpful for a lot of teenagers. 

The only thing I have to say negatively about this book is just a frustration at the ending. EMERY LORD, WHAT DID YOU DO? I won't say anymore, but be warned: the ending will leave you wanting more. In the best way possible, because it's hard to let Lucy go.

And even if you're not religious or too interested in faith, this book is a five star. Like I said, Lucy is so engaging, and as always with Emery Lord, there is a swoon-worthy boy in Henry who will make your heart skip a beat. It's filled with summer, friends, helping, swimming, music, dancing, basically anything a summer should be, contrasted with the harsh reality of the day-to-day life of Lucy and her family. I can't recommend this enough if you want to end your summer both laughing and crying. 

July Wrap-up!

July is finally over! I know I've been missing from the blog a little bit (a lot of bit), but I'm still gearing up for my move to Boston later this month!

However, I've been reading a ton in July and they've all been amazing books - ranging from YA to contemporary releases to classics! I wanted to share the love so here's a quick overview of what I've read this month!

The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord

Emery Lord is officially an auto-buy author for me now! After When We Collided, one of my favourite novels from last year, she wrote another stunner with The Names You Gave Us. I won't give too much away - since I have a review finished and lined up for later this week - but I can't stop recommending this novel.

The Names They Gave Us is the story of Lucy and the summer before her senior year. Right before the summer starts, Lucy finds out that her mom's cancer has returned and her mother urges her to spend this summer not with her parents at the church camp they organise, but at Daybreak, a camp for troubled children. At the time Lucy believes her mother needs her most, she follows her mother's wishes anyway and finds herself as a counsellor for third graders. As usual with Emery Lord, this novel includes all the feels and swoon worthy crushes, while also being extremely realistic about life and the difficulties teenagers have to figure out their place in it.

The Roanoke Girls - Amy Engel (release date: 10 August)

This is an e-book that I received from Netgalley, and as always I want to thank them and the publisher, in this case Hodder & Stoughton. This in no way influences my review/opinion of the novel.

The Roanoke Girls is a difficult novel to review. I did love it, but I feel obliged to mention that the novel might be triggering for a lot of people. I want to keep my review spoiler-free, as always, however I suggest this review if you want more spoiler-y information about the potential triggers. 

So a while ago I got an e-mail in my inbox about the Roanoke Girls and I immediately knew I had to read it. The Roanoke Girls are the girls that seem to have it all: they are beautiful, intelligent and live in the gorgeous Roanoke house. Except, something is off about them. All the girls seem to mysteriously disappear or die at a young age. The only ones left living with the matriarch and patriarch of Roanoke are two granddaughters: Lane and Allegra. Allegra grew up in the mansion with her grandparents, while Lane moves there at fourteen after her mother commits suicide. While there, Lane starts to slowly unravel why all the Roanoke Girls disappear and she runs too - until a decade later when Allegra disappears and she has to help find her.

The Roanoke Girls is as thrilling as everyone says it is. While it is not scary in a typical way, it messes with your mind and with what you think is going on in the Roanoke family. A lot of controversy has been mentioned about this novel and the dark twists and turns in it. I can agree that at times it feels like Amy Engel is throwing certain things in because it sells nowadays. However, overall this novel really worked me. I like to be heart broken by a novel. I like them to be dark and depressing. If you don't like these things, I'd steer you far away from The Roanoke Girls. 

Amy Engel's writing was great in this novel - simple, yet extremely effective. We alternate between Lane's first visit to Roanoke and her coming back years later to help find Allegra. Both these stories slowly intertwine so that we get a clearer picture of what the Roanoke secret is and what might have happened to Allegra. I do wish we knew more about Lane and Allegra's mothers, as well as their sisters. While the mystery of their deaths/disappearances was quite prominent, their personalities and stories seemed to fade into the background. I think another hundred pages would have made this novel perfect for me, but I'd still highly recommend this for any thrill seeker this summer.

The Outsiders - S.E. Hilton

From an upcoming release to a book that everyone seems to already know and love: The Outsiders by S.E. Hilton. I know this is an insanely popular classic, especially amongst YA lovers like myself, but I must admit that I knew little to nothing about this novel until I read it. 

Ponyboy (yes, that's really the narrator's name) is a greaser in 1960s Oklahoma. He sees the world as two groups; the greasers like himself and the socs, who have money and basically run the world, or at least Ponyboy's neighbourhood. Ponyboy and his greaser friends constantly get in trouble with the socs and vice versa until eventually one night an argument takes a very dark turn that changes the lives of all greasers and socs.

I couldn't believe the hype of this novel when I started reading it. I even tweeted after 20 pages asking if anything ever happens in The Outsiders. And then the real story started. While the arguing between the socs and the greasers might seem, and often is, juvenile, the story takes a crazy unpredictable turn that raises the stakes for all the main characters. While I don't want to go too in depth about the spoiler, since I also want to discuss it in an upcoming Book and Tea Talk video, it really made this book one of my favourites ever in the span of a few pages.

This is one of those classics that I highly recommend for people who want to start reading classics, but don't know where to start. My Penguin edition is only 136 pages and S.E. Hilton's writing is accessible no matter what you've read before. Though I take offence in the claim that this is the first YA novel (Did everyone forget about The Catcher in the Rye???!!!), I do think this is a great transition from YA to classics.

The Lauras - Sara Taylor

The Lauras is another book I received from Netgalley, and I am grateful to them and the publisher Random House. This does not influence my review/opinion of the novel.

I'm not sure how I ended up with The Lauras on Netgalley. It's honestly one of those books that I just suddenly had and couldn't remember why it appealed to me in the first place. So I started The Lauras with a completely open mind and kept that for the whole crazy roller coaster ride this book took me on.

Alex's mother wakes her up one night, puts her in the car and drives her away from her father and family home. With no explanation given, Alex suddenly lives in motel rooms and eats junk food every day, while her mother focuses on getting them further and further away from their home. Where are they going? That's not clear to Alex, but she slowly figures out that they're following a trail of Lauras. Her mother has met several Lauras in her life - all different, but equally important, and she wants to revisit some of them and takes Alex along for the ride.

I have complicated feelings about this novel. It was original in the premise of a journey that basically consisted of people instead of places and I also really enjoyed the focus on the mother - daughter relationship. Alex is a young teen when they leave and basically grows up in the car with her mother, which leads to the expected trouble in communication. I think this combination of a mother going through a crisis and a daughter going through puberty is not explored often and I throughly enjoyed the ups and downs of their connection.

However, Sara Taylor's writing didn't really do it for me. I felt like Alex, who is the narrator, told me a lot. She told me about her background and her family and I didn't really get to see any of it in the way she communicated with other people or reacted to situations. The pieces of her mother's journey are not really puzzled together, but consist of her mother just telling her things. I wish there was a little more nuance in this novel in the way characters could show the reader how they feel instead of just telling them, which made the story feel juvenile at certain points.

There were also certain scenes that, like with The Roanoke Girls, seemed to be put in there to shock for the sake of shock. They didn't really push the character or plot forward enough and the traumatic aftereffect seemed smaller than I would expect. I would have liked to have seen more character development from certain things Alex experiences.

Taking all that in though, I still really enjoyed The Lauras. It's an original book and over time Alex really grew on me. Hopefully other authors will see how complex and beautiful mother and daughter can be together and they will write other novels focussing on it too.

When We Collided - Emery Lord

Rating: ★★★★★


Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: YA
Pages: 352 pages

I received this book for review from Bloomsbury. Though I am extremely grateful, this in no way influences my opinion.

When We Collided starts out as a typical YA novel. Quirky female character from the big city goes to a small town and meets a cute local boy with issues. Though it seemed predictable at the start, something about Emery Lord's writing kept me reading. There was immediately an undertone of a deeper story and I couldn't wait to find out exactly where these characters would go.

To say I wasn't disappointed is an understatement: I was blown away. I won't reveal much of the plot here, because I think the element of surprise is a great bonus if you read this story, but I can tell you that the characters are amazing. When We Collided alternates between the perspectives of Vivi and Jonah. Vivi initially kind of annoyed me, because she wanted to be special for the sake of being special. However, as early as the end of chapter one, some things just don't add up about her and I couldn't wait to find out what made her the way she is.

Jonah on the other hand is a completely different story. I immediately fell in love with him and that feeling only grew during the story. There are so few guys in YA who are narrators and genuine good guys - now we finally have Jonah. After the death of his father, he has to take care of his family and I loved how realistic this was portrayed. His mother is depresses, so clearly all the older sibling step up and take care of the younger ones, but they complain about it! They hate it at times, are angry and resentful towards their mother, which are natural feelings that are rushed over in other YA novels. Jonah might be somewhat of a hero, but only because he has to be, not because he necessarily wants to be. 

Clearly, when unpredictable, big city VIvi and responsible Jonah 'collide', sparks are about to fly. Thanks to Emery Lord's realistic writing style, it's never a cliché love story and the plot is tight and exciting enough to keep you reading until the very last word.