A popular cheerleader—raped, beaten, and left for dead. An edgy outsider with a gift. Can they team up to catch a killer? Bea’s life has been a mess ever since she got kicked out of private school and sent to rehab. Now clean, Bea is starting over at Packard High School, in a city shaken from two assaults on young women. The latest victim, Willa Pressman—the one who survived—doesn’t remember a thing. But Bea has a disturbing new “skill”: she can see—and then draw—images from other people’s minds. And when she looks at Willa, Bea is shocked by what she sketches. Bea might be the only one who knows Willa’s secrets—and who can take down the killer before he strikes again.
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Amazon Childrens Publishing
Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review
Three and a half stars: An engaging dark YA thriller.
Exasperated, Bea waits for the urine stick to turn color and reveal to her weary mother that she is indeed still clean and sober after three months. Bea just recently returned home after a stint in rehab. She is picking up the pieces and reentering her life. However, she is not attending her former all girls school, instead she is enrolled at the local public high school. Bea knows that her bushy chia type hair and reputation will leave her on the outside of the popular social circles. No matter, she meets up again with Chris, a former acquaintance, and the two strike up a solid friendship. Just when Bea thinks her life will be normal, her strange artistic talent rears its head. Bea can inexplicably draw what is in other people's thoughts. Once she captures and draws a face from Willa's mind, Bea knows she must do something. Willa, the popular Quenn Bee, was recently raped and left for dead. Bea is convinced that her drawing is the face of a killer, but who is going to believe her especially since she is a former drug user?
What I Liked:
- I was pleased to find that I enjoyed Bea's character. Granted, Bea is no angel. She is a recovering substance abuser and she is unrefined, snarky and rebellious. Even though she is rough around the edges and lacks polish, she is a lot of fun. I liked her funny commentary and I appreciated her courage and strength as she fought to overcome her addiction. Add her in her unique artistic talent and you have an entertaining and memorable character. Not to mention her chia pet hair and penchant for thrift shop clothes. Bea is one of those characters that will stick with me as I very much enjoyed her voice.
- I appreciated that the author is not afraid to tackle some very tough subject matter. There is no glossing over the dark stuff in this one. There are plenty of references to drug use, and it is very revealing as far as the depths that one can sink and the tough road one must follow on the way back. I appreciated going on the journey with Bea and seeing how she had to fight every single day to stay clean and sober. This is a good reminder of the dangers of drugs. I loved the way the author pointed out in the book that drug users can and do come from all types of life. Don't get caught up in the stereotypes for drug uses because a substance abuser can be anyone, even the popular, smart kids. While the drug use and recovery are an important part of the story, they are not the main focus, so don't shy away from this thinking is a book about the dangers of drugs, it is much more than that.
- This book has an intriguing little mystery. Bea inadvertently finds herself caught up in a murder mystery once she accesses and draws the face of the rapist from Willa's thoughts. Girls are going missing and being murdered and Bea is the only one with a solid lead. I loved the suspense and the thrill as the mystery takes control of the plot.
- I loved that this book is a quick entertaining read with a focus on something other than your typical high school romance and such. This is an entertaining thriller with a heroine fighting to overcome substance abuse who has a special talent that helps track down a killer. If you are looking for a romance be warned there is not a romance in this one. I personally liked that this book did not have any romance. It is nice every once in awhile to not have a romance.
- I liked that there are a few drawings sprinkled throughout the book.
- I was pleased that this book came to a nice conclusion and that was not a cliffhanger!
And The Not So Much;
- While I loved Chris, I was a bit disappointed that his character was stereotypical. Chris fast becomes Bea's best friend. He is gay and he fits into that mold we see far too often in the YA genre. He is a girl's best friend, he is a bit flamboyant, he likes fashion and shopping, he is in the closet when it comes to his family, and he is everything you have come to know in the typical YA gay boy. How I wanted his character to move beyond that stereotype and be something different. I am tired of the gay boys being the girl's best friend and fellow shopping partner.
- There was a niggling thread that was left undone. There is a brief flashback in the book when Bea remembers a time when her father, a former artist, wanted to draw picture of Bea and her mother when Bea was little. For whatever reason, he crumpled the paper and refused to draw after that point. When Bea questions him, he doesn't answer and I was left wondering why did he stop drawing? Does he also possess some kind of talent like Bea?
- I completely enjoyed the fast and thrilling plot, but the ending with Bea and the showdown with the killer felt a little off. It was perhaps just me, but I thought the book kind of fell of course and I didn't like how that final confrontation played out. Basically, I was not expecting Bea to end up in that position. I thought perhaps she would utilize her new connection at the police department or Chris, especially when she grapples for the hand print drawing.
- Even though this book is labeled YA it is for mature readers only. There are several serious subjects in this one such as drug use, sex, rape and murder. It is definitely a darker read and is best suited for the older teens.
Sketchy was a quick and entertaining YA thriller. It does have some dark content so it is best suited for older readers. It features a likable main character who is overcoming substance abuse. I enjoyed the story and the characters and I would definitely like to read the next installment.
"Rule number three: stay away from the dudes in the shop class. They all have woodies!"
"Name-calling is worse than a broken bone----it can't be set in a cast and healed in six weeks. I would know. It hurts!"
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Towering by Alex Finn
At first, I merely saw his face, his hands on the window ledge. Then, his whole body as he swung himself through the window. Only I could not see what he swung on. Until, one day, I told my dream self to look down. And it was then that I saw. He had climbed on a rope. I knew without asking that the rope had been one of my own tying. Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her. Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again. Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Alex Flinn knows her fairy tales, and Towering is her most mind-bending interpretation yet. Dark and mysterious, this reimagining of Rapunzel will have readers on the edge of their seats wondering where Alex will take them next!
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by HarperTeen
Source: Publisher/ Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review
Two stars: A book with insta love and unanswered questions
Rachel longs to see the outside world. She has spent years trapped in her tower, her only contact with the outside world is Mama. Her friends are the beloved characters from her well worn books. Things begin to change when Wyatt comes to town. Wyatt is recovering from a traumatic experience. His mother sends him to live with her high school friend in the middle of nowhere. Wyatt is soon caught up in a seventeen year old mystery when he uncovers the journal of Dani, the daughter of his hostess Mrs. Greenwood. As Wyatt begins to unravel the mystery, he discovers Rachel trapped in her tower. Together, they work to break a curse that has held the small town hostage. Can Rachel and Wyatt overcome the odds and save the town?
What I Liked:
- I enjoyed the gothic feel to this Rapunzel retelling. It is set in the middle of nowhere in a remote town where it seems time has frozen. The town is without many of the modern conveniences, cell phone reception is sketchy and it is isolated. In the beginning, I was even a bit confused as to the era. This small town has plenty of secrets and there are strange disappearances on a regular basis, but everyone attributes them to runaways. I liked that Ms. Finn manages to capture that creepy atmospheric setting that I totally was not expecting.
- I loved how Ms. Finn wove in many of the classics and there were numerous references to famous books throughout. I enjoyed how Rachel's perspective of life was based on her experience with reading classical literature. It certainly gave her an erroneous perception of modern day life, which at times is funny.
- I appreciated the creative way the author managed to respin Rapunzel. She moves the tale to modern times and adds in a gothic feel, magic and a dangerous drug ring that holds the small town hostage. I was pleased to see some of her clever ideas as she refashioned this old tale.
- I enjoyed the humor in this one. There are some funny lines about being in the middle of nowhere and being attacked by serial killers or zombies. I also liked the Star Trek stuff. I appreciated the humor and a bit of snark, as it was something I wasn't expecting in a romantic fairy tale.
- This is a stand alone novel and I liked that everything wrapped up neatly at the end and that the book did not have a cliffhanger or love triangle.
And The Not So Much:
- Towering, unfortunately was not a good fit for me. This ended up being a case of cover lust gone bad. I have wanted to try this author for awhile as I have heard some good things about her other fairy tale retellings. Even though she does a good job reinventing this old tale, I just felt like it missed the mark. First, the whole romance felt cheesy and it was totally a case of insta love. Now, I can understand that Rachel would immediately be attracted to a handsome boy since she has had no other human contact, but the romance moves immediately into the couple exchanging "I love you" on the second meeting. The author attempts to explain the insta love away by including the idea of destiny and fate as Rachel has been dreaming of Wyatt. However, I did not like the quick pace, nor did I like the use of darling and other old fashioned terms of endearment. Again, I understand that it fits Rachel's character, but to me it just felt ridiculous. I was expecting to be swept away with a lovely romance and it does not happen.
- The plot starts with an interesting mystery and it even incorporates a ghost. I enjoyed the inclusion of the journal the provided some insight into the events that lead up to Rachel being in the tower, but everything doesn't come together cohesively. The plot begins to veer off course as it explores a strange drug ring and mysterious disappearances. Things start moving very rapidly at the end and it goes so fast that I felt like it glossed over important details. I wasn't completely satisfied with some of the explanations, either.
- At the end, I had so many questions. What happened to Rachel's father? Who was Wyatt's father? Where did Rachel's magical powers come from? Why could her hair suddenly start growing out of control? Why were her tears able to heal? How did the brush mysteriously end up in the hardware store? Why was Dani killed? There were far too many loose ends for my taste.
- The book is told through dual point of view narrators: Rachel and Wyatt. I enjoyed the two voice, but I did not like the way the chapters were done. Some chapters were only a page or two and then a new chapter would start, and often it was still in the same voice, why end a chapter and start another? The switching and the short chapters made the book fell choppy.
Towering was a book that had great promise, but fell flat on execution. The romance is rushed and forced. I wanted an epic fairy tale romance and instead I got cheesy insta love. While there are some interesting new ideas in this revision of Rapunzel, it wasn't enough to save the book for me. I seriously need to learn a lesson about cover lusting. Towering is yet another example of a book with a beautiful cover on a less than stellar book.
"The notebook smelled the way old books do, like dust and unrealized potential."
"Then we watched Star Trek, which apparently is on all the time somewhere, if you have five thousand cable channels."
"I relaxed a little more. Zombies didn't usually offer directions back to the Northway. They just ate your brains."
"But she was so beautiful, and somehow, her very strangeness was what I loved about her, that she made me feel less weird. I wondered, maybe, if everyone felt weird sometimes, if they just didn't tell anyone."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for and honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.