Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review : Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Rating: Unrated | 304 pages | Balzer + Bray | Contemporary | 11/07/2017 | 

Book Review

Here We Are Now is the captivating story of a family being broken apart and brought back together at the same time. At just 304 pages Warga tells this very insular story about family, loss and love. I mean once this story knows where it wants to go it hits all the marks.

Taliah Abbaldat summer afternoon takes a dramatic turn when the father she has never knew, famous rock star Julian Oliver. shows up on her doorstep. Julian is facing  the impending loss of the father he had a tumultuous relationship with. Inspired by the impending loss Julian finds himself  ready to do right by his own daughter before it is to late. Together  Taliah and Julian set off for his small hometown together as they begin to unearth the murky waters of her parent's relationship. I was very tempted to comp this to a Sara Dessen novel but there is a sense of closeness and focus on character building  to this narrative that makes it less so.

I've complained on multiple occasions about the Jerk Dad in YA. Warga really adds some nuance here.  I mean, you think when you hear a YA book features a famous dad you know what it is going to be but Warga turns it on it's head. You start to feel for the struggle Julia is going through trying to figure out being a father. Warga does a deep dive into the parent's back story in the late 90's, and I am all for YA novels that have interesting and dynamic parents. There is even some fun back and forth between Taliah being a young millennial and Julian being a Gen Xer.

My only issue with this book was the "love interest" felt slightly tacked on and took me out of the narrative. I'm pretty sure if you take it out it doesn't change that much of the story. It doesn't even show up until 1/3 of the way in and I was hoping there wouldn't be one.

I hesitated to read Warga's debut novel because of the suicide aspect, but I enjoyed this one so much that I may go and revisit it.

I'm not a music person (Cause I did not know the title was a Nirvana lyric. Speaking of I guess Julian is a Kurt Cobain expy) and music serves as a bond for Julian and Taliah

Check out the audiobook review at AudioFile Magazine !

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Sidekicks by Will Kostikas

This Aussie YA follows three boys at a Sydney private school who have nothing in common except their dead best friend, Issac Roberston.

The boys in this book are labeled as the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd and they each share their unique  perspective on the aftermath of Issac’s death. Of the three boys, Harley, the “rebel”,   feels partially responsible for the death (and who is just asking to be compared to Holden Caulfield) and Miles, the loner “nerd”, have the most compelling stories  because of how Issac's death changes the way they navigate the world.

This is a full cast audiobook with each boy getting his own narrator,  it took me awhile to get used to the Australian accents and I was rewinding a lot because I couldn’t always catch what they were saying. Funny story, the only narrator I didn’t have issues understanding was P.J. Ochlan who sounded authentically Australian to me, but  it turns out he’s an American actor who specializes in accents. He has also done a boatload of audiobooks.

In YA parents have a tendency to disappear, and I liked that Kostakis wrote nuanced  adult characters in each boy's life. Although I had a real problem with Ryan, the champion swimmer’s, mom. She’s the head of the English department at their private school and she needed to seriously set boundaries between herself and her son at school. She just lets him hang out in her office in the teacher's area by himself and he just kind of watches the teachers interacting. It just seems to me the teachers should have spaces separate from students where they can "be themselves" , but like who’s going to say anything if it’s the boss’ kid.  *jumps off soapbox*

One of my oddly specific genre catnips is white dude ennui in YA.  I think it’s because it’s so far from my own lived experience and this book hit a lot of my buttons for that. It was like a reverse Goodbye Days with a dash of Catcher in the Rye.

I really like all the cover interpretations for this book. The one at the top of this post is the audiobook cover but I think my favorite is the Australian. hardcover.


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