The Boy with the Butterfly Mind by Victoria Williamson (J Fiction)

The Boy with the Butterfly Mind

Victoria Williamson (J Fiction)

Elin has never been in trouble for anything in her whole life. She is smart, respectful, and helpful. A perfect princess determined to get her divorced parents back together…even though her mother is in a relationship and her father is married. Elin has everything under control, but she doesn’t have any friends. After all, it’s lonely being so perfect all the time. Then there’s Jamie who seems to be a magnet for trouble. He has ADHD and is easily distracted, forgetful, and messy. His parents are also divorced and Jamie blames himself…as he often does for most things that go horribly wrong. It would be nice if he had a friend to talk to, but it’s lonely being bad all the time. When these two very lonely and different worlds collide, order and chaos not only meet, but they end up living together in a house that seems to grow smaller by the minute.

The Boy with the Butterfly Mind is told from the alternating viewpoints of Elin and Jamie—both eleven. Although you understand the internal and emotional struggles of both characters, it is far easier to be sympathetic towards Jamie. Although he is completely aware of his challenges and limitations, he still absorbs an unfair amount of guilt and blame while managing to maintain a trusting and forgiving attitude. His journey is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and just when we think his life is getting easier, the rug is mercilessly pulled out from him. With so much against him, we can’t help but cheer on this perpetual underdog.

Williamson is a primary school teacher with a Master’s Degree in special needs education. She’s worked with children requiring additional support needs and this real-world experience is evident in her writing. We see it as Jamie details his struggles and feelings and especially when he describes his interactions with his mother who is completely overwhelmed and emotionally drowning. These occurrences are raw and ugly and uncomfortably accurate. When Jamie hurts, we hurt, which makes this book all the more thought provoking and poignant.

By focusing on Jamie, I don’t mean to downplay Elin and her feelings. She, too, is struggling with her own demons as she feels that the only way to win her father back is to maintain a level of perfection that is both unrealistic and impossible. She puts undue pressure on herself and the introduction of an imperfect and unwanted addition to her family just adds to her burden. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone and we can’t help but wince as we witness the walls around these people come tumbling down. However, the measures that Elin takes in her own personal “war” against these unwanted intruders are both cruel and dangerous and under these circumstances it is difficult to extend her any mercy or grace although she is keenly aware and witnesses the consequences of her actions.

Using data from 2016-2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 6 million children—between the ages of 3 to 17—were diagnosed with ADHD, which is why books like this one are so important and valuable. To show the bullying and isolation that children with this diagnosis experience is just the first of many steps that need to be taken to promote understanding, acceptance, and inclusion.

There’s a quote about friendship that I’ve used before in a review that’s from an anonymous source. It’s one of my favorites: A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden. Although Jamie felt broken and just wanted to be “normal”, he was lucky enough to find such a friend who made him realize that you don’t have to be perfect in order to be a perfect friend. I think the world would be a much better place with more people like that in it and I’m glad that Elin eventually realized this, too.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Somebody on This Bus is Going to Be Famous! by J.B. Cheaney (J Mystery)

Somebody on This Bus is Going to Be Famous!

J.B. Cheaney (J Mystery)

Somebody knows more than he or she should. That’s the link they’re missing, but they may have a way to find it.

The elementary school bus that serves Hidden Acres Subdivision has a motley assortment of students: the celebrity, bully, talker, innovator, the brain, adapter, jock, pleaser, and the new kid. Today was the start of the school year, but their driver took an expected turn onto Farm Road 152 and pulled alongside an empty bench. No one was waiting and no one boarded, yet day after day the bus took this same route to the same empty bench. And then things began appearing at the stop. Things that held a specific connection to certain kids on the bus. As questions about the mysterious stop lead to events that happened many years ago, unlikely alliances form to reveal answers that will surprise everyone…and make somebody on the bus famous.

Not since Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game have I taken so many notes on a book (ten journal pages in case you’re wondering). With nine central characters and story lines to keep track of, not including the bus driver, it’s a lot to keep straight and remember. Luckily, Cheaney does an excellent job of giving each character their turn in the spotlight as we are introduced to their homelife and get to understand a little about what makes them tick. What the author eventually shows us is that you can’t always judge a book by its cover as these multi-dimensional characters are dealing with some very complex and complicated family issues—most of which seem to stem from absentee, apathetic, or annoying fathers. This book did have a surprising amount of daddy issues, although a lot of the moms don’t come across much better.

This book has a recommended reading age of 10 to 13 years, which is appropriate for the content. There are multiple innuendos regarding profanity; however, one character’s grandparent is suffering from dementia so some statements made are mildly lewd and inappropriate. While the subject matter is sobering, Cheaney handles it compassionately and realistically. And although there are a lot of moving parts to this story, it is an exhilarating ride that really picks up speed during the last fifty pages where all the dots begin to connect. Add to that a harrowing bus accident (which is where our story began) and you have non-stop action and suspense. The only complaint I had is at the very end of the book, the author mentions a bonus chapter and provides two different URLs to visit in order to see what happened to our gang of nine. When I accessed the links (I like closure), neither worked so let this be a warning to all authors: forego the marketing gimmicks and just put whatever you have to say in print. Technology is a fickle beast.

American television host and author Fred Rogers once said, “Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.” And although I won’t ever know what came next for the celebrity, bully, talker, innovator, the brain, adapter, jock, pleaser, and the new kid, I’d like to think that they each realized their own value and worth because to me that’s much better than being famous.  

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (J Fiction)

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Scott O’Dell (J Fiction)

Twelve-year-old Karana loved her village of Ghalas-at where everyone had their place and knew their role. Life was good until the day the Aleut ship—with its two red sails—arrived at the Island of the Blue Dolphins to hunt otters. What should have been an amicable partnership turned into betrayal and bloodshed and would mark the beginning of a new life for Karana and her people. With most of their men dead, the villagers spot another ship, this one bearing white sails and wanting to take them all to somewhere safe. But fate intervened and Karana found herself abandoned and alone on her beloved island. As she awaits the ship’s return, Karana learns how to survive while avoiding danger both on and off the island. As the years pass, she continues to scour the water looking for the sails: white will reunite her with her family while red will surely bring her death.

Based on the true story of a Nicoleño woman who survived alone on San Nicolas Island for 18 years, Island of the Blue Dolphins is a story of courage, survival, and perseverance. With only herself to rely on, Karana quickly disregards the laws of her village which forbade women to make weapons. She also finds a safe place to sleep, stocks food, constructs a home, and secures her property. Only when she becomes injured does she truly understand the precarious position that she is in: if she is incapacitated, no one else will care for her and she will most certainly die. This new realization causes an awakening in Karana and we see her mature almost overnight.

It would have been easy and appropriate for O’Dell to allow Karana time to grieve and buckle under the weight of her predicament and tremendous responsibilities. Instead, he gives us a character who rises above her circumstances to forge a new life for herself while finding courage, compassion, and companionship along the way.

Although O’Dell gave us Karana in 1960, I hope that a new generation discovers her and finds a heroine who doesn’t need a wand or cape or superhuman abilities to prove her worth or to define who she is. Karana shows us that often times a great heroine is strong and brave and kind not because of who she is, but because life requires it of her and she fearlessly chooses to answer the call.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Adult Autobiography)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou (Adult Autobiography)

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.

Before she became Maya Angelou, she was Marguerite Johnson. When she was three, Marguerite—along with her four-year-old brother, Bailey—was shipped from Long Beach, California to Stamps, Arkansas bearing little more than an identification tag with instructions on her wrist. The pair was sent to live with their paternal grandmother and crippled uncle. It was here where young Marguerite would watch the poor Blacks picking cotton in the fields, fall in love with Shakespeare, experience prejudice and hate from people far poorer and less educated than herself, and learn her multiplication tables. In the years following, she would be shuffled back and forth between her mother, father, and grandmother while surviving rape at the age of eight, celebrating her first library card, getting her first job, and experiencing motherhood.   

Angelou’s autobiography, which details her life from age 3 to 17, spent two years on the New York Times paperback bestseller list, was nominated for a National Book Award, received the Literarian Award in 2013, and yet remains one of the most banned and/or challenged books in America for its violence, racism, sexuality, childhood rape, and teen pregnancy.

Banning Angelou’s work—set in the 1930s and 40s and told from the lens of a young Black girl—because of its violence and racism is akin to banning a book on war because it’s too bloody. To measure a book set in the past using today’s racial, moral, and ethical standards is unreasonable, unfair, and unrealistic. It’s a false equivalent and no historical work, person, or idea could ever pass such a litmus test. Yes, Angelou’s book contains everything that it was banned for, but chastising these honest and true observations, experiences, and thoughts through removal doesn’t make our schools or society any better for it. How can it?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is gritty, sobering, shocking, and compelling while being uplifting, witty, honest, and hopeful. Angelou shares memories of her first Valentine, her 8th grade graduation, the stability a new stepfather brought to her family, her multiple scholarships to the California Labor School, the summer when she and her father took an unforgettable trip into Mexico, the month she lived in a junkyard, and being the first Black to work on the San Francisco streetcar system. At every turn, Angelou seemed to live her mother’s advice: Life is going to give you just what you put into it. And Angelou gave it her all.

Angelou’s title of her autobiography is a reference to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy”, which is filled with empathy for a bird longing and crying out for freedom. After reading Angelou’s early years, I felt that the caged bird sings because that was what it was born to do. Angelou is that bird and despite the limitations and bars placed around her, she refused to be a prisoner or a victim. She never stopped at finding a way to make the impossible possible and whenever she felt helpless or weakened, she rose above it all and sang because that was what she was born to do. Through her books and poetry, generations will continue to enjoy Maya Angelou’s song as long as we, as a society, are brave enough to keep the cage door open for all to hear.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA Fiction)

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson (YA Fiction)

It’s Melinda Sordino’s first year at Merryweather High. A time of change and cliques, of fitting in or being left out, and lots of ups and downs and possibly even a few sideways. But for Melinda, her year is already beginning with a dark cloud hanging over her. While other teens are covering up their acne, Melinda is covering up her shame of being raped…and it’s not easy. Every fiber in her being wants to scream out and tell the world what happened to her, but why speak when nobody—not even your best friend—wants to listen?

Speak is the very reason why I immediately have to get my hands on a book as soon as it’s been challenged or banned. It’s like a bat signal that drones over and over again read me read me read me. Published in 1999, Speak was ranked 60th on the American Library Association’s list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Book for 2000-2009 and 25th for 2010-2019 for its inclusion of rape and profanity, deemed biased against male students, and blasted for containing a political viewpoint. I am shaking my head so furiously right now that I’m awaiting our local meteorologist to report a 6.5 magnitude tremor for my area any minute now. The profanity is mild, a fellow student stands up to a teacher who is trying to stifle a class debate, the girls in the book come off WAY harsher than the boys, and the rape scene is as follows: …he smells like beer and mean and he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up and zips his jeans and smiles. Feel that? I think that tremor may have hit 6.8 by now.

This is a gritty, raw, painful, and ultimately inspiring book about a young girl desperately trying to piece her life and sanity back together after it was gutlessly and maliciously ripped apart—her innocence robbed one summer night on the wet, dark ground. Told from Melinda’s point of view adds another layer to this complex and haunting story that shouldn’t be banned, but instead handed out to every teenager on the planet. By banning this book, the “powers that be” are truly no different than Melinda’s friends who choose to excommunicate her as she brings light to an unfortunate truth…that some individuals are just bad, no matter how attractive the packaging might be. Anderson’s message is far too important to ban to a dark corner. They say light is the best disinfectant and this book needs to be on every bookshelf and in every hand and hopefully there is a teacher or parent or trusted advisor there to read alongside to offer insight, context, and comfort.

I’ve never pored through a book so quickly before and that’s simply because Anderson ensnares you from the very first page with her poem “Make Some Noise”. More chills await as you slowly understand the significance of the cover design as Melinda’s story begins to stretch and her truth desperately reaches upward toward the sun so that it may live rather than die in darkness. I hope this book finds the right hands and that any Melinda out there finds someone like Melinda’s art teacher, Mr. Freeman, who says, “You’re a good kid. I think you have a lot to say. I’d like to hear it” because then, maybe, that would open up the door for someone to speak.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (J Fiction)

Olive’s Ocean

Kevin Henkes (J Fiction)

Twelve-year-old Martha Boyle and her family were leaving on their annual vacation to the Atlantic coast when a woman appeared on the Boyle’s doorstep. She introduced herself as Olive’s mother, one of Martha’s classmates who had recently been killed. She handed Martha a folded piece of paper from Olive’s journal. As Martha read the note written by a girl she barely knew, she was struck by just a few simple sentences: I hope that I get to know Martha Boyle next year (or this summer). I hope that we can be friends. That is my biggest hope. These kind words filled with expectation would alter Martha’s world view forever as she mourns a friendship that never was and never will be.

I raised my child on Kevin Henkes’ mouse books: Chester’s Way, Owen, Wemberly Worried, and others. Each helped me reinforce the value of friendship and the importance of acceptance, handling your emotions, self-reliance and many other life lessons. When I saw that Olive’s Ocean was a Newbery Honor book, I wasn’t really surprised. What DID surprise me was that it ranked 59th on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Challenged Books from 2000 to 2009 for its offensive language and sexual explicitness. No wonder Wemberly worried!

Despite the ominous label it carries, Olive’s Ocean is a rather innocuous coming-of-age story about a girl dealing with the customary pre-teen fare: first love, awkwardness, rejection, humiliation, and the constant struggle of trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to be. Pretty safe stuff, but Henkes does nudge the boundaries ever so slightly causing those few, all-important feathers to be ruffled.

The “sexually explicit” reference is a brief explanation to Martha by her older brother of why their parents seem overly affectionate one morning. It seems they were exhibiting “Morning Sex Behavior” and “when they do it in the morning” they get a bit lovey-dovey. Regarding the “offensive language”, there are instances of mild profanity, but nothing too over-the-top for the publisher’s recommended reading age of 10 and up. So, the big questions are: Are EITHER of these inclusions necessary to further the story or develop the characters? No. Could they have been excluded with little to no impact on the overall message? Absolutely. Would Henkes have omitted them if he knew the wrath that awaited him? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no question that having your book banned instantly puts you on a reader’s radar, but clearly this was not his intent. All in all, these infractions (as most references go) are tame, but clearly remain unforced errors and prompt me to up the recommended reading age by a few years just to be prudent.

As far as stories go, this was a quick read and had several important messages about inclusivity and realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around your own personal cares and needs; however, I would have liked more Olive in Olive’s Ocean and feel that this was an opportunity wasted. The apparent connection between Olive and Martha stated in the synopsis doesn’t quite materialize in the actual book, and it would have been far more interesting if Olive’s story had been developed more deeply to show Martha’s slow and eventual evolution. Still, the targeted audience will find a nice and relatable story, while I was hoping for something a little bit more moving with a deeper and lasting message. I guess if I’m looking for these, I need to go back to the mouse stories.

Rating: 3/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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The Borrowers Afloat (The Borrowers #3) by Mary Norton

The Borrowers Afloat (The Borrowers #3)

Mary Norton (J Fantasy)

It all began when Mrs. May told Kate the story of the Borrowers: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty Clock. The story of how these little people lived happily under the kitchen floorboards at Firbank until being smoked out; how they survived hunger, weather, and a sinister gypsy with the help of a human being and a loner Borrower; and how all of this ended with an unexpected reunion with Uncle Hendreary and Aunt Lupy. But, as we’ve learned, things with the Borrowers are never easy and with bad news from the human boy Tom, our three friends are off on yet another adventure, except this time they’re aided by a most resourceful and trustworthy ally, Spiller.

The Borrowers Afloat is the third installment in The Borrowers series and it’s just as thrilling and enchanting as its predecessors. Norton continues to use each book to give readers a greater insight into the world of these resourceful and brave beings. In this book, we see how Uncle Hendreary and Aunt Lupy live and understand the partnership they’ve formed with Spiller. Also, Spiller has been promoted from a supporting role to a main character as he plays an instrumental part in saving the Clocks (quite a few times by now), as well as assisting them in securing permanent housing.

Of all the characters so far, Spiller is perhaps the most underrated and gracious as he gives up his home, time, and resources to assist the Clocks on more than one occasion. Although he works through barter, the kindnesses extended Pod and Homily seem to go largely unreciprocated and unappreciated except for Arrietty who holds a genuine like and concern for this ragamuffin drifter. Lastly, Norton continues to develop our soft, pampered, and opinionated matriarch, Homily, and allows her to slowly let go of her prejudices to begin appreciating and valuing Spiller and his contributions to her family.

So far, the series continues to delight with an exciting and fun ride while this book leaves readers with the most suspenseful cliffhanger yet as Mild Eye the gypsy is hot on their heels and the return of the nasty Mrs. Driver and Crampfurl reminds us that our friends’ journey is far from over. But, as Pod was reassuring Homily after another near escape by saying, “As I see it, in life as we live it—come this thing or that thing—there’s always some way to manage. Always has been and, like as not, always will be,” andI have no doubt that Pod, Homily, and Arrietty will continue to find some way to manage as long as they’re together.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Howards End by E. M. Forster

Howards End

E. M. Forster (Adult Classic Fiction)

Considered by many to be Forster’s masterpiece, Howards End is the story of three families in early 20th century England: the Wilcoxes—wealthy, classist, and materialistic capitalists who bear no responsibility for their wrongful actions; the Schlegels—well-intentioned, learned, middle-class siblings who believe in personal accountability and are willing to defy societal protocols to do what is right; and the Basts—lower-class and poor, they seek a better way of life that always seems to be just out of reach.

Just shy of 250 pages, this book took me an inordinate amount of time to finish. The reason is probably best summed up by American economist Herbert A. Simon when he said, “…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

For me, one of the trickiest things about writing book reviews is that I try to take into account when the book was written, as well as its audience and intent. I refuse to be THAT reviewer who reads a children’s book and then writes that a talking dog is utterly unrealistic. However, I take into equal account how the book made ME feel. Did I connect with the story and characters? Did it leave an impression? Most importantly, is it a story that I would read again?

There is no doubt that Forster accurately depicts the political, social, and philosophical landscape of post-Victorian England and that his elaborate descriptions and attention to detail were the ultimate, exotic passport for his readers when it was published in 1910; however, the deluge of details are simply overwhelming and drowned out, what I felt, was the overall message of the story. Near the very end of the book, when asked about the health of her husband, eldest sibling Margaret Schlegel said to her sister Helen, “Not ill. Eternally tired. He has worked very hard all his life, and noticed nothing.” Both the Wilcoxes and the Basts were so blinded by trying to be better versions of themselves, that they failed to see the bigger picture—Henry Wilcox denying a dying wish to maintain control or Leonard Bast refusing an act of benevolence to maintain an ideology.

The one saving grace of this book is Margaret Schlegel—the matriarch of her little family. Her resistance to yield to patriarchal and societal rules and demands is her greatest virtue and an ever-present point of contention in her marriage. She is loyal, direct, tactful, and resolute and although she longs for equality, she understands well enough why some women “prefer influence to rights”.

Howards End is indeed a beautiful book and worthy of critical praise. Unfortunately, I agree with Aesop in that It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Less is more sometimes.

Rating: 3/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron (J Fiction)

A Dog’s Way Home

Bobbie Pyron (J Fiction)

Eleven-year-old Abby Whistler and her Shetland sheepdog, Tam, are inseparable. Not only is Tam an agility champion, he is Abby’s world…and she is his. But an unexpected detour leads to a terrible accident that tears Tam from Abby. As the days turn into weeks and fall gives way to the harshness of winter, can Tam find his way from Virginia back to North Carolina where home and his girl is?

Pyron checks all the boxes with this book. A Dog’s Way Home is non-stop action and suspense with whole lot of heart. Short chapters and alternating points of views—between Abby and third-person POV for Tam—ensure that readers stay engaged and fully committed to these characters and their individual struggles as one fights to survive in the harsh wilderness while the other navigates foreign situations in a big city.

There are a couple of things that really made this an exceptional read for young readers. First is that Pyron chose NOT to write down to her audience by having Tam be the narrator of his own story. Having the scene described by an arbitrary third party lends a starkness and cold reality to Tam’s situation, which only heightens the drama and urgency of his predicament. Second is the cruel reality of Tam’s situation. He is an animal suddenly faced with either starvation or survival and as his natural instincts kick in, so does the necessity to eat, and in order to eat one must kill.

Anyone who has ever cared for a dog will feel their heart being twisted and squeezed within their chest as Tam battles everything from the weather to wild animals and ruthless humans. Side note: a lot of well-meaning men who are protecting their loved ones or just doing their jobs really get the short end of the stick in this book and ultimately come across as villains. I expect that by the end of this book, many young readers will despise just about every adult in this book…except Meemaw, Abby’s grandmother.

Part Lassie Come-Home and part The Incredible Journey, A Dog’s Way Home will engross readers from beginning to end with messages of hope, perseverance, acceptance, and love. Most of all, it will challenge readers to reassess what’s truly important since material trappings never hold their shimmer for very long. As Meemaw said to Abby, “Sometimes the thing you think is the most important isn’t that big a deal, once you have it.”    

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com

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Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman (Adult Fiction)

Start Without Me

Joshua Max Feldman (Adult Fiction)

Adam Warshaw is an ex-keyboardist and recovering alcoholic who is muddling along at his job at a bank. Marissa Cavano is a flight attendant who fled an alcoholic mother, married into a wealthy—albeit classist and racist—family, and is currently struggling to save her marriage. Both are heading home for Thanksgiving and their paths are about to intersect in what would be the start of a highly unpredictable and tumultuous day that would send each of their lives in unexpected directions.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, you can’t judge it by its BACK cover either. Joshua Max Feldman’s Start Without Me is described as A darkly comic novel. Nope. …the quintessential Thanksgiving novel. Let’s hope not. …a unique solidarity between two strangers as they help each other… More like one constantly saves the other one’s bacon. …Feldman’s novel excels in his crafting of extraordinary dialogue. OK. Nailed that one.

This was an extremely difficult book to get through as Adam’s character is insufferable, unrepentant, oblivious, ungracious, selfish, self-absorbed… The list is long and would take me until Thanksgiving to get through them all. I think the difference between Adam and some other awful main characters that have completely destroyed a book for me (I’m looking at you Kathy Nicolo) is that Adam KNOWS he’s a dumpster fire, the author knows he’s a dumpster fire, and everyone around Adam knows…well, you get the idea.

A friend once told me of a co-worker who said that she HATED a certain restaurant (both shall remain nameless) because she got food poisoning there four times. Four. Times. So, at that point, do you blame the restaurant or do you blame the patron? Who’s the knucklehead? The same with this book. Is it Feldman’s fault that I was totally frustrated by his book or is it mine? I mean, just like the knucklehead co-worker, I kept going back expecting a different outcome only to be confronted with the same mess over and over again. Was I thinking that if I JUST ordered the dessert, I’d be safe?!

The good news is that there are a few bright spots. Feldman really is a master at writing dialogue. It was one of the few things that saved this story and if he had done more of this and less of Adam waxing poetic about his past days in his rock band, I could’ve saved myself a lot of time from having to pet the neighbor’s dog in order to get back into my happy place. The only other glimmer was Marissa, whose backstory is an absolute trainwreck. She is the only character worthy of our sympathy and the only true adult in the room. She extends Adam more grace than he deserves and although she’s been the victim of many bad choices, she’s determined to learn from them and move forward stronger and wiser.

Before this book, Feldman wrote The Book of Jonah. After all of the negative emotions still coursing through my veins after dealing with Adam, it might take me some time before I’m strong enough to tackle this book. In the meantime, you better start without me.

Rating: 3/5

* Book cover image attributed to: http://www.thriftbooks.com

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