Tag Archives: abuse

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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“She told me once that her failing was pride. I didn’t know what she meant then, but maybe that’s what she was talking about.”
-Tish

Told using journal entries for an English class, Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is the heartbreaking story of sophomore Tish Bonner. Since Mrs. Dunphrey promised not to read any entries marked “don’t read this,” Tish uses this project to confess her deepest secrets about her father’s abusive behavior, mother’s neglect, and struggle to take care of her eight-year-old brother on her own.

I don’t know how to describe this book without using the word “depressing.” Honestly, this book was one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It starts off a bit slow, but the descriptions of neglect and abandonment that Tish and her little brother go through is sometimes hard to read and constantly threatening to make you cry with the turn of each page. It also makes you really think, what if that had been me?

I know this is a very short review, but this book was a short read and there isn’t much else to say. Just try to avoid it if you’re overly sensitive, because it’ll definitely stick in your head for much longer than you think.

-J

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The Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant) by Veronica Roth

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“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”
-Four, Divergent

Many years in the future, the city of Chicago has been split into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; and Erudite, the intelligent. Each faction has specific jobs and requirements that must be made in order to join. At the age of sixteen, a choice must be made: whether to leave the faction of your parents that you’ve grown up in, or to transfer to another faction. After a simulation that is supposed to show her what her strongest aptitude is, Beatrice Prior learns that she is Divergent, or has equal aptitude for three different factions. This revelation causes her to rethink her previous idea about the factions, and her decision will transform her into a completely different person.

I tried to write that summary without any spoilers, so I apologize if it seems a little vague and uninteresting, because it’s truly anything but. The Divergent trilogy is reminiscent of trilogies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, due to the dystopian future and survival themes, and this trilogy is just as action-packed and compelling. If it weren’t for the trouble I had finding the second and third books, I would’ve had this entire series read within a few days.

Not only do I love the action and suspense in these books, but the numerous themes are also a big deal to me. It’s like Veronica Roth just decided to write about absolutely everything she could think of to try to fit the books into every category possible. And I don’t just mean that this is an action/romance/sci-fi/suspense novel, but the fact that she decided to take nearly every problem a person could be faced with and let the characters struggle with them. The ability to do all of that and still make it work, I think, is what makes this series even more incredible than it would have been.

This trilogy also has a growing fandom, and that fact is an even better reason to try out these books. Although Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy, was released only two months ago, Veronica Roth has already announced a series of short stories from Four’s point of view will be published as an anthology in February. Additionally (and yes, I realize I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews with this sort of statement, but that just means they’re good books, right?), the film adaption for Divergent will be out in March, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who will also be playing Augustus and Hazel in the The Fault in Our Stars film adaption) as Beatrice and her brother Caleb.

I’m going to use the end of this post to do a little promotion for the Divergent Fandom WordPress blog, in case you’ve already read the series and want to check it out. It’s a great site that you should definitely check into if you’ve read and enjoyed the series. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year!

-J

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Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse

“Love means holding on to someone just as hard as you can because if you don’t, one blink and they might disappear forever.”
-Tony

Sometimes life just gets too hard. Sometimes everything piles up until it feels like you’ve been left with one option: to end it all. That’s what Conner, Tony, and Vanessa thought, at least– but after failing at each of their suicide attempts, they end up in Aspen Springs for recovery. Now they’ve been given a second chance at life… Will they take it or opt out once again?

I know I start a lot of reviews like this, but I really love this book. The re-read for this review was probably the third or fourth, and I never get sick of it. Although I’m in love with all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, this one is definitely my favorite. It’s the first I ever read by her and what made me fall in love with her writing style and writing, period. It’s a little strange to read at first, but if you give it a chance you’ll adapt quickly and end up loving her too.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, books are always more exciting with multiple narrators. This adds to my love for this book, but I don’t think that is the main reason I like it so much. I’ve always been really into books about mental hospital/group home sort of things, as you may know by my numerous reviews about the subject, and the entire book is about this. Plus, it deals with some really important issues and “taboos,” in such a way that I strongly believe everyone should read this book at least once– especially for those who judge by reputation or first impressions, this book should be a real eye-opener.

And, like I say about all of Ellen Hopkins’s books, it’s powerful. I cry just as much now as I did the first time I read it. It really changed my opinion and views on certain things, but I won’t talk about that… spoilers and all.

What I will talk about before I go, though, is the sequel, Perfect. I don’t own it, I haven’t read it, and I haven’t seen it in any bookstores yet, but I really want to read it. From what I’ve heard, it’s three completely different narrators– two of which I remember as Cara, Conner’s twin sister, and Kendra, Conner’s ex-girlfriend who made a brief appearance in Impulse, but I don’t remember the other at all. I think it sounds like it’ll be incredible, and as soon as I find and read it, you’ll be the first to know.

Once again, I forgot to write this review, so the review for the book I’m about halfway done with now (a big surprise, I bet, but I will say it’s a classic) will most likely be up tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and see you then!

-J

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint– it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
-Craig

After nearly committing suicide one night, depressed teenager Craig Gilner decides to check himself into the hospital. He is given a few days to stay in the adult psychiatric ward, where he meets a schizophrenic, some drug addicts, and a girl who scarred her face with scissors. (I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling anything, so I’ll just awkwardly stop this summary here.)

Once again, I’ve forgotten to write a review. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this incredible book, but I can still recall it rather well. No matter how messed up he is, Craig is relatable to everyone in some way. His thoughts and opinions generally make sense, even if they’re a little far-fetched. He’s a really good guy, despite the bad decisions he may make, and I think we can all relate to that somehow.

It’s rare that I truly find a book funny. Sure, I have a sense of humor, but finding an actual laugh-out-loud-funny is an unusual thing for me. This book was one of the few exceptions so far. Similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s Kind of a Funny Story pokes fun at the mentality of the people in the ward without being offensive or rude, and I admire Ned Vizzini and Ken Kesey for being able to do that.

Now, just today I found out that this book has a film adaption. How I didn’t know beats me, especially because the cast includes people like Zach Galifinakis, Jim Gaffigan, and Emma Roberts. As of now, all I know is I need to see this movie.

And since I took so long for this review, the next review will most likely be up tomorrow. One more book to go and I’ll be book-hunting again, so please leave me some recommendations! 🙂

-J

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Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep

“I cannot imagine how I will cope when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of collection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?”
-Christine

One morning, Christine Lucas wakes up having no idea where the past twenty years of her life have gone. A man who claimed to be her husband has left for work after explaining she has amnesia, and another man claiming to be her doctor has given her a journal she’s supposedly been keeping over the last few weeks. Confused and scared, she reads, unraveling everything she’s found out about her past and present and discovering what’s really been going on for all of this time.

I’m going to start off by saying this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’m recommending it to anyone 13 or older. The reason I say that is it has a little bit of adult content, and having read this for the first time at the end of my eighth grade year, I remember feeling awkward reading those parts (and still do, being a sophomore now). Either way, the graphic content of the book is slim, and I’m sure it would be fine for most ages. The book is split into three parts: the beginning, where Christine awakens and can’t remember anything until she reads the journal; the actual journal entries that fill in the past few weeks; and what happens after she finishes reading. The entire book is filled with suspense, twists, and revelations, complete with an ending you’ll never forget.

And, if you still need a little persuading before you decide to read, check this out:

Before I Go to Sleep is the first novel by S. J. Watson published in Spring 2011. It became both a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been translated into over 30 languages, and has become a bestseller in France, Canada, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.It reached number 7 on the US bestseller list, the highest position for a debut novel by a British author since J. K. Rowling. The New York Times described the author as an “out-of-nowhere literary sensation”.

That’s from the beginning of the Wikipedia article, which also mentions that the film adaption will be coming out in 2014, with Nicole Kidman cast as Christine. This is big, guys. And I’m using this film adaption to convince more and more people to read it– I know I’m not one to see a movie based on a book without reading the book first, unless it’s purely by accident– in which case, I have to read the book immediately afterward.

So there you have it. Go read this book as soon as you possibly can, and let me know what you think (without spoilers, of course, for anyone who hasn’t read it). Thanks for reading, and hope to see you again soon!

-J

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Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Identical

“I will probably die before he does. Dying, for Daddy, would be the ultimate defeat. But death doesn’t scare me. To know exactly when I might expect it, up close and in my face, would actually be a comfort. Because to tell the truth, most of the time dying seems pretty much like my only means of escape.”
-Kaeleigh

Identical twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne may seem the same on the outside, but they lead completely different lives. Raeanne uses drugs, sex, and purging to settle her inner demons, while Kaeleigh turns to bingeing, drinking, and self-harm. Raeanne has relationships with numerous guys, while Kaeleigh struggles to keep one. Despite their differences, their explanations are the same: their father sexually abuses Kaeleigh consistently, while Raeanne is forced to keep quiet and stay away. But after years of enduring this torture, it comes to be too much for either twin to handle alone– but who will step up and release the other?

One word can easily describe this entire 560+ page book: powerful. It’s not for the faint of heart, and definitely don’t read it if you don’t expect to cry in the near future. And I’m not just referring to the twins’ lives– even some of the minor characters’ backstories are tear-inducing. There isn’t much else to say; Identical is one of those beautiful-in-a-sick-way novels that really makes you appreciate everything you take for granted.

Without revealing any spoilers (which is the absolute last thing I want to do, considering the huge one in this book), I think the ending of the novel is definitely a topic of discussion. It packs a punch, no doubt about that, and may even require a second read-through for you to fully get your head around. Once again, no spoilers, but I have to compare it to The Prestige. It was the first psychological thriller/twist-ending movie I’d seen since I watched The Sixth Sense at a young age, and to this day it has stuck with me and has become one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s exactly how Identical was for me: I think it’s safe to say the ending of this book was unlike any other I’ve read, and I need to find more like it.

Okay, I think that’s enough gushing in one day. I’ll have another review for you guys in a few days, and most likely it’ll be a big change from the reviews I’ve recently posted. This is a big year for books for me, and I hope you’re all as excited as I am. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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The Crank Series by Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Glass, Fallout)

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“Crank is more than a drug. It’s a way of life. You can turn your back. But you can never really walk away.”
-Kristina/Bree, Crank

So I’ve done it. After thinking about it for 50+ reviews,  I’ve finally made a full series post. Now this is as weird for you as it is for me, so please bear with me as I try this out.

The first book in the series, Crank, tells the story of Kristina, described as “gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble.” One day, when she decides to visit the father who has been missing all of her life, she discovers a powerful drug: crystal meth. Soon Kristina’s life is changed forever as she falls deeper into lies, trouble, and addiction.

In Glass, Kristina continues to struggle with her addiction, but with all new problems. As everything around her falls apart, she’ll have to find new ways to get with the monster, and they won’t be pretty.

Fallout takes place nineteen years after the events in Crank, and is told by Kristina’s teenage children, Hunter, Autumn, and Summer. Although their lives are completely different, they have one thing in common: their mother has torn their families apart, forcing them to live separately (and in some cases, without knowledge of each other). But when their paths intersect, their individual lives will be changed forever.

These books are impossible to put down. I know I would’ve had them all read within a few days if it weren’t for my final exams this week. The series is, like Ellen Hopkins’s other novels, not for the faint-hearted, and as real as it gets. Also, I commend the author for her incredible talent of being able to write a teenager’s point of view flawlessly, no matter the subject matter or age range.

The character of Kristina in the first book, Crank, was especially relatable to me due to the description of her personality (quoted above), and I think that made me like the first book a lot more. It is really interesting to see how someone like Kristina could turn down the dark road of crystal meth so easily, and how it affects everyone around her. By Glass, though, the story starts to drag on a little. It feels like most of it is being repeated, or that the words don’t matter and are only there to take up space. I became bored with this book very quickly, and feared that the final book of the series would be even worse. But, I can gratefully tell you, Fallout was my favorite of the three.

The narrator change is what made Fallout interesting to me right from the start. Books are always more exciting with separate narrators, considering you have three different voices, three different points of view, three different lives instead of one throughout the whole 500+ page novel. But the change in narrator wasn’t the only thing that made this addition the best.

Although it makes me upset to finish a series, the final book is usually my favorite. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Everlasting of the Immortals series by Alyson Noel, and Fallout of the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins all have that in common, for two main reasons: one, the climax is biggest and best thing the author can possibly think of; and two, the author always finds a way to tie all of the previous events together perfectly. This denouement, as my English teacher says, is so exciting to me. And the final book in the Crank series fits this description well.

I hope this extra-long series review was worth the thirteen-day wait for me to post again. This review was exhausting, so I think I’m going to stick with some single books for a while until I’m ready for another hour-long reviewing session. Please let me know what you think of the series review style and whether you think I should do this for every series I review. Thank you so much for reading, and have a great summer!

-J

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Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Burned

“Real love finds you once, if you’re lucky.”
-Aunt J

Pattyn Von Stratten is the oldest of her family’s seven daughters, living in a gilded Mormon home. Her father a raging and abusive alcoholic, her mother succumbing to his every command, it is up to Pattyn and her oldest sister, Jackie, to care for the rest of the family. Pattyn, questioning numerous beliefs by her religion and her family, experiments by dating a boy behind her father’s back– only to get caught and sent to rural Nevada to live with her aunt for the summer. While there, she discovers the truth about her life and beliefs and sets out to become a new Pattyn.

This is and forever will be one of my favorite books, written by one of my all-time favorite authors. Ellen Hopkins is known for writing her novels using the unusual style of free-verse poetry. Basically, it’s just like a regular novel, but there are probably a maximum of fifty words per page, and the words are broken into stanzas, like any other form of poetry. When I read the first of her books I hated it, but I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy and admire her style. Especially with the poems that are set up in a read-between-the-lines sort of way– one or two words from each stanza are set apart from the rest of the text, so that you can interpret the story on that page in two different ways.

But the plot of the book itself is just as fantastic. There are so many conflicts and issues at hand that there is never a boring moment. But if you’re expecting a happy ending, do not read this book. Seriously, this book is majorly realistic and depressing. It may seem like everything will turn out okay in the end, but the ending will hit you like a ton of bricks. The first time I read this book, I definitely didn’t see it coming.

And if you like this one, you should really check out some other books by this incredibly talented author. So far, I only own four of her numerous published works, but I’ve heard the others are amazing and will definitely be checking into them soon. Also, the long-awaited sequel to Burned comes out in September; many more of Ellen Hopkins’s hugely anticipated books are to follow, so keep a look out for her upcoming releases!

-J

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

“Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the streets and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the sights you want to see.”
-Ponyboy Curtis

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends– true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs– a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends– he knows that he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down…

I copied that summary from the cover of the book because, let’s face it, my summary wouldn’t have done this incredible book any justice. Being a classic, you’ve probably heard of this book before– or at least the movie, or at the very least, the famous quote, “Stay gold,” from this book. Usually I wouldn’t be interested in “classic literature” at all, but this is one of my favorite books of all time.

While this may seem weird to some of you, I’m sure the avid readers out there will understand when I say I have a crush on a fictional character from this book, and odd as it may be, that character happens to be Two-Bit. It didn’t help when I saw the movie for the first time and twenty-one-year old Emilio Estevez was cast as Two-Bit in his first movie role. (He was amazing in that movie, by the way, and portrayed the character perfectly. Actually, all of the actors in that movie did.)

I’d better stop before I start gushing. I’ll end it on this note: go read this book as soon as you can. Go watch the movie right afterwards. And even if you don’t want to read this book, go watch the movie anyway. It’s perfection, and it’s full of gorgeous actors from the 80s (Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, etc), which just makes it that much better.

-J

*I just today noticed that this review didn’t post on Thursday when I wrote it. Sorry!

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Deadline by Chris Crutcher (with bonus list)

Deadline

“Love, in the universal sense, is unconditional acceptance. In the individual sense, the one-on-one sense, try this: we can say we love each other if my life is better because you’re in it and your life is better because I’m in it. The intensity of the love is weighed by how much better.”
-Hey-Soos

When Ben Wolf discovers he has a terminal disease and has only a year left to live, he decides to make his last year worth it. He decides against telling anyone, even his family, and against getting treatment, so he won’t have to spend his last year weak and bed-ridden. He also decides to spend this last year doing anything and everything he’s always wanted to do (or anything he can do within his small town).

I don’t think I could’ve saved a better book for last. It was unbelievably difficult to even find a quote for this post– there were way too many. Not only from the spiritual Hey-Soos (and no, I did not spell that wrong), but from countless others as well. You could literally flip to any page in this book and find a great quote.

There were so many things going on in this book, I don’t know where to begin. The last sentence of the description on the back cover says, “But living with a secret isn’t easy… What will Ben do when he realizes he’s isn’t the only person who’s keeping one?” And that sentence alone pretty much sums up the entire book. Almost every character Ben comes into contact with has a huge secret, or at least a big problem. And it is fascinating.

Now I’m rambling, and I don’t want to keep going in fear of giving anything else away, so I’ll end it on this note: Deadline is easily one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

And, finally, since I promised you a bonus list in the title of this post, and since I’ve finished all of my Christmas books, here’s

J’s List of Top 12 Best Books Reviewed So Far
*No particular order*

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne — read it in a day, bawled, then watched the movie, bawled
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — I want to be friends with Patrick. Badly.
  • Saving June by Hannah Harrington — just all-around awesome, and I could only dream of going on a road trip as cool as this.
  • Deadline by Chris Crutcher — see above review 🙂
  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray — very weird, but very cool.
  • The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon — one of my favorite nonfictions.
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters — a great portrayal of struggling with becoming transgender/dealing with BIID
  • Right Behind You by Gail Giles — Gail Giles is just perfect anyway, but this was my favorite of hers.
  • Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher — after reading only one of his books, he became one of my favorite authors.
  • A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer — an incredible story of torture, determination, and survival.
  • Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess — an unpredictable ending that makes the whole book ten times better.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey — technically a classic, but still amazing. (Also, the movie was nearly just as good.)
I couldn’t bear to leave out two of these marvelous books, so I made it a top 12 instead of the usual top 10. Anyway, it took me quite a while to separate my favorites from the ones I just liked, so hopefully you all enjoy this list. Below is a much smaller list of the books I didn’t like as much. (Let the whining begin.)
J’s List of Top 5 Worst Books Reviewed So Far
*No particular order*
  • The Dream Where the Losers Go by Beth Goobie — stupid, stupid, stupid.
  • Candy by Kevin Brooks — didn’t live up to expectations at all.
  • Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger — could have been so much better than it was, plus the Christmas scene was dreadful.
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn — if you really want to know, read my review, but prepare yourself for some serious complaining.
  • The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford — so terrible, I didn’t even finish it. That’s why you didn’t see a review for it on here.

-J

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