Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch
Genre: Realistic fiction, YA
4 stars.

Dairy Queen was heart-felt and real, with a protagonist who was both hilarious, humanly flawed, and relatable.

DJ Schwenk is on the cusp of her junior year of high school, but with her dad’s hip injury, her mom’s work schedule, and her older brothers away at college on football scholarships, management of the family dairy farm has fallen solely to her. She finds herself working dawn till dusk to keep the farm afloat. It isn’t until the spoiled, rich brat Brian Nelson, quarter back of her rival town’s football team, is sent to help her work that she begins to question her lot in life and what it is that she truly wants. Continue reading

Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson

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Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson
Genre: Realistic fiction
4 stars.

“In those seconds, I suppose I learned that chaos doesn’t need to breed more chaos. Sometimes all it takes is the right person by your side to make everything all right in the end.”

Ten Birthdays was heart warming and unexpectedly poignant.

Poppy lost her mom on her 15th birthday. But what Poppy doesn’t know is that her mother has written her one letter for each of her next ten birthdays so that she could remain a part of her life. Each chapter follows another year in Poppy’s life, another birthday as she reflects on the previous year, and struggles with problems of growing up. Each year we wait with baited breath for the long awaited letter from her mother, filled with love, laughter, and advice on how to live life well. Continue reading

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the-girl-on-the-trainGenre: Thriller, mystery
3.5 stars because of the ending, otherwise I would have given this a four.

Interesting read and an excellent use of an unreliable narrator. The book was well written, well paced, so that the reveals didn’t seem to come from no where, but weren’t too expected either. However, the ending was entirely cliche and expected, and it rendered a greater part of the book and it’s exploration of certain characters pointless. And really? We get an epic bad guy monologue at the end that makes no sense? The first 3/4 of the book were riveting because of the mystery, but also because of how trapped we became in the narrators’s minds. The ending, however, did not live up to not only the hype of the “amazing twist” I’d been promised, but also the first 3/4 of the novel.

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass

26222109Genre: Thriller, realistic fiction, YA
3 stars.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Part of me wants to give it four stars, but most of me wants to give it three stars.

The book was generally well written, it was dark, disturbing, incestuous, and grew darker and more disturbing with every page. But I also think it did not do a believable job of dealing with how incredibly messed up the Creswell siblings would be if they really grew up the way they did. There were moments when I felt this family and their horrific story were done justice, but Castley’s revelation and sudden change of heart at the end were too fast and furious. Continue reading

Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

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4/5 on Rachel’s Rating Scale
PG for violence and intense situations
Young adult, science fiction

This book started out innocently enough. And by innocently, I mean it starts with a girl confined in a psych ward after she admits to murdering her classmate. But the book becomes even stranger later on (though not in a psychologically disturbing sense) which is why I say “innocently enough.”

Alison cannot actually remember what happened the night she went crazy, and the body of Tori, the girl who disappeared, has not been found. Told from the unreliable narration of Alison–a girl deeply entrenched in emotional and mental trama–Ultraviolet draws the reader into Alison’s broken relationship with her mother, her friendships with the other patients, and her feelings for a young grad student. The narrative follows Alison as she navigates doctors, medications, the strange shapes and colors that have filled her vision for as long as she can remember, and her slowly returning memory. Once Anderson settles the reader in Alison’s unconventional but increasingly familiar way of life at the psych ward, Anderson chucks out a twist ending that left me reeling and laughing hysterically at the unexpected genre switch for hours. This is partially what makes Anderson so great–her ability to completely change what you thought you were reading into something entirely different.

What I love about RJ Anderson as well is her willingness to delve into situations and characters who are beyond the norm for this kind of young adult novel. Alison’s struggle with mental instability adds a layer of confusion to the narrative, leaving the reader wondering if he or she can fully trust Alison’s relation of events. Rather than the conventional supernatural aura that hangs about many young adult novels, Anderson cultivates a sense of normalcy in abnormal situations. Anderson isn’t afraid to delve into the complex hardships of mental patients, such as schitzophrenia, paranoia, and anorexia, but allowing the patients to remain human.

Don’t read this book if you are looking for complete psychological realism, as Anderson takes a more sci-fi swing toward the end. As with most young adult books, approach it with a grain of salt and take the book for what it is, a fun, amusing read with abnormally intelligent substance for a young adult sci-fi novel.