This is Not a Love Letter

This is Not a Love Letter

This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell (Young Adult)

Jessie’s boyfriend, Chris, has gone missing shortly before high school graduation, and now she is documenting everything that is happening as she waits to find out where he is. The book is written as though she is speaking to him the entire time, so she is always saying things like “you would have liked …” or “your mom said …” or “it reminded me of when we …”. As a result, it wasn’t long before I felt like I knew both of them really well. The author did  an excellent job of describing Chris’s personality and attitudes through Jessie’s eyes and her anecdotes about their relationship.

Jessie herself is somewhat crude and tough. Her dad is out of the picture and her mom is a hoarder, making Jessie ashamed of her home and frustrated with her life. She shoots from the hip and doesn’t mince words. Chris is a gentle soul who recently moved into town – a straight-A student, a gifted baseball player, and a pacifist. He’s a good influence on Jessie, giving her a sense of worth and direction that she didn’t have before he came into her life. But he’s also a black kid from Brooklyn who doesn’t really fit into this all-white paper mill town in the Pacific Northwest, and he has already dealt with bullying from some of the locals. Many possibilities exist for why he has gone missing.

The book also has several strong peripheral characters who are well drawn and add to the story – both his friends and hers. I never knew for sure what was going to happen, and I really came to care about both Chris and Jessie. Being the same age as they are, I found myself thinking I would like to know them personally, which only happens when a writer does a great job of bringing characters alive. While the plot did not wow me as much, I really enjoyed the characters and the interesting way in which the story was told.

Bella gives This is Not a Love Letter four stars. 4 stars

Potty-mouth Index: Moderate use of the “f” word; realistic for the character depicted

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is Not a Love Letter will be released on January 30, 2018 and is available for pre-order.

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How to Keep Rolling After a Fall

How to Keep Rolling

How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo (Young Adult)

Wow. This book grabbed me from page one and didn’t let go. It immediately sets the stage: Nikki, the seventeen-year-old narrator, is volunteering in a rehab center, fulfilling a community service requirement after being accused of cyber-bullying. Although others were involved, the incident has turned her into a pariah in her small New Jersey town. She has lost all of her privileges at home, her parents barely acknowledge her, and her friends have abandoned her. In her senior year, she’s forced to go to a new high school after being expelled from the one where she was a cheerleader, an accomplished stage performer, and one of the most popular girls in her class. Notoriety dogs her; once strangers realize who she is, they reject her, adding to the terrible loneliness that has become her norm.

Except for Pax. Matthew Paxton is an attractive, athletic young man close to her age who comes to the rehab center to play wheelchair rugby. An automobile accident two years before has left him paralyzed from the chest down. When he attempts to befriend her, she tells him her story up front—no use prolonging the inevitable rejection, she thinks. Instead he says he believes in fresh starts, and for the first time in a long time, she has a friend. But then, that’s how he insists they keep it—strictly friends—in spite of a growing mutual romantic attraction.

While this story could have descended into darkness or a pity party, it never did. Nikki’s narration is full of personality that made me like her immediately and care about her future. Pax is a survivor with just the right amount of vulnerability to keep him from being a cliché. Their dialogue rings true, and Nikki’s priorities are realistic for her age while showing real growth by the end of the novel. I believe young adult readers, as well as adults in general, will find these characters engaging and the book hard to put down.

Grandma gives How to Keep Rolling After a Fall five stars. 5 stars

Potty-mouth Index: MINOR

Bella Reads and Reviews received How to Keep Rolling After a Fall from the publisher as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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