Rummanah Aasi
   I haven't had a good streak in my reading this week. I hope that turns around soon before the year ends. Here are my mini-reviews for some of the latest YA books: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles, Tandem by Anna Jarzab, and Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin. Please note that these reviews are based on the advanced reader's copies of the book that I received from the publishers via Netgalley.

Description: After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
   Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Review: Wild Card, the first book in Simone Elkeles, satisfies on a romance level but don't expect much depth to the story. Though both Derek and Ashtyn both have their own share of serious issues to be aired out and sorted, they really aren't addressed and brushed under the rug. I liked Derek as a character, one whom you can't get angry with for a long time due to his charm and charisma. I had a hard time trying to figure out Ashtyn, however, because she came off as uneven- neurotic, confident, and insecure at different parts of the story. I was really surprised that there really isn't much football discussed or shown in the story considering what it means to the characters. Overall, a quick enjoyable read that left me wanting a deeper story. The side characters are fun to be with and I might pick up the next book in the series but it's not on the top of my list.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, crude sexual humor, and sexual situations. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Catching Jordan by Miranda Keneally, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Description: Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
  To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.

Review: I was really looking forward to Tandem after reading its exciting premise, but it failed to uphold my interest. Tandem had a promising start in introducing our bookish heroine and her kidnapping to a parallel universe started the story, but then its pacing tapered off. The parallel universe that Sasha finds herself in is unfortunately really bland. I didn't really understand why it is so important for her to pose as the missing princess and what did the opposing faction really want? There is a romance but it is definitely not as dramatic as the description makes it sound.I found myself to be bored and I started to skim the story in hopes that it would pick up and it does-just the last 50 pages or so. I don't plan on continuing this series.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a scene of underage drinking. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Description: Fenella was the first Scarborough girl to be cursed, hundreds of years ago, and she has been trapped in the faerie realm ever since, forced to watch generations of daughters try to break this same faerie curse that has enslaved them all. But now Fenella’s descendant, Lucy, has accomplished the impossible and broken the curse, so why is Fenella still trapped in Faerie?
   In her desperation, Fenella makes a deal with the faerie queen: If she can accomplish three acts of destruction, she will be free, at last, to die.  What she doesn't realize is that these acts must be aimed at her own family and if she fails, the consequences will be dire, for all of the Scarborough girls.
  How can she possibly choose to hurt her own cherished family not to mention the new man whom she’s surprised to find herself falling in love with? But if she doesn’t go through with the tasks, how will she manage to save her dear ones?

Review: If you are looking for a dark story featuring the fey, be sure to check out Werlin's Impossible and its companion novel UnthinkableHeld captive by a creature of the fey who killed her lover, psychologically and sexually abused, Fenella is forced to watch successive generations of young girls treated similarly and then killed. I told you it was dark, didn't I? In Impossible a teen is confronted with this prophecy and through heartbreak and support from her loving family was able to break the curse by achieving three impossible acts of creation. Now that the curse it broken, damaged Fenella wants only to die. 
  Of course whenever you ask the faeries for anything it doesn't come without a price. For Fenella to die she must do three acts of destruction  upon her family, damaging the lives of her existing. To help her with her mission, she is aided by the faerie queen's brother Ryland whose wry, amoral observations provide some comedy relief but not much. 
  Unthinkable should have been a great read with lots of food for thought as it touches on a lot of themes: survivor guilt, impossible situations and the question of what choice means, all set against a backdrop of complex familial relationships and faeries, with the bonus of tying together Impossible. Unfortunately the story is unbalanced. Fenella is flat and kind of boring and though she may elicit some sympathy, in part because her abuse is talked around more than about, and her extreme choices in how to fulfill her tasks makes it hard for readers to root for her. There is even an underlining romance that brings Fenella back to humanity, but that too is inconsistent and hard to believe because Fenella alternates between a sexual predator and the poor helpless woman. Though she undergoes some major changes towards the end of the book and takes responsibility from her actions, it's doesn't quite redeem her character. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is allusion to murder and rape (which takes place off the page), some language, and mature themes. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Impossible by Nancy Werlin, Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Tithe by Holly Black
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I'm with you on Wild Cards Rummanah, I really liked Derek as well, but I struggled with Ashtyn at times. And I would have definitely liked a little more football in there as well, with such a short book I feel like there was room for it:) I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Tandem, I just loved that one, but you do raise some interesting questions. I don't remember why it was so vital that she replace the princess and no one know she's actually missing. Maybe book 2 will explore that more:) Lovely mini reviews!

  2. Despite all the praise I've been hearing from so many reviewers, I just know for a fact Simone Elkeles isn't an author for me. I avoid contemporary to begin with, and when you add to that the all romance/no depth combo, it's safe to say I'll be staying away.
    As for Tandem, it's been on my list for a while. I'm sorry it disappointed you.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I keep hearing that Wild Cards leaves readers wanting more from the story, and Ashtyn seems like a confusing character. I did enjoy Elkeles' prior books, but I think I'll skip this one. I'm sorry Tandem didn't work for you! I really enjoyed it, but I totally understand your issues. When a world isn't holding your interest, it's time to cut and run in the series. I still really want to check out Impossible and Unthinkable. I enjoy dark stories about the fey, though it sounds like the execution could have been better. Thanks for your honest reviews!

  4. I was with you on Wild Cards. It just lacked depth, but was still entertaining. Too bad you didn't like Tandem. I'm curious about that one but less so now. Perhaps when the series grows a bit more. I've heard mixed reviews about Werlin's work, so I might wait to see if I can get it at the library.

  5. Jess Says:

    I read Tandem and I was surprised by how much it picked up in the end. I'm on the fence on if I will read the next one.

  6. Bummer! I love the premise of Tandem and was thinking of reading it soon but will probably hold off on it now. It's disappointing to find out that the parallel universe is boring and the romance kind of bland.

    I haven't read any of Elkeles' novels and can't motivate myself to, Rummanah. They just seem to be very dramatic and romance-centric.

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