Book Review – Color Me In

Color Me In is the multi-racial story of Nevaeh Levitz in some of the most formative times of her life. Nevaeh is half black, half Jewish and white-presenting. Not only does she struggle to identify a culture that is true to who she is, she struggles to understand who she is in general. And then her parents split, taking their respective cultures and separating them once again, causing Nevaeh to discover, grapple with, and lean into the cultures that make her uniquely Nevaeh Levitz.

I have seriously been craving a solid Young Adult read, and I had high hopes for this one. I skipped the August Book of the Month options and nabbed this “add-on” as a stand-alone instead, hoping it would satisfy my craving. I think I got half way there…

Book 38:
Color Me In
by Natasha Diaz

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary, Debut

Published:
August 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Color Me In is the multi-racial story of Nevaeh Levitz in some of the most formative times of her life. Nevaeh is half black, half Jewish and white-presenting. Not only does she struggle to identify a culture that is true to who she is, she struggles to understand who she is in general. And then her parents split, taking their respective cultures and separating them once again, causing Nevaeh to discover, grapple with, and lean into the cultures that make her uniquely Nevaeh Levitz.

Favorite Quote(s):

“If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that you only receive what you are open to, and you are only open to what you believe you deserve.”

– Natasha Diaz, Color Me In

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None noted.

Pages:
384

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Quick and easy, this book was definitely Young Adult. However, in ways it was almost too comparable to The Hate U Give, which took away from the overall excitement I had about this book going into it. The main character faces clashing cultures. White-presenting, she’s privileged, but she’s technically black, a people group who are not often considered to be privileged. The culture clash is intriguing – it’s something I cannot relate to, and I really appreciate Diaz diving into this story to give some perspective.

However, I would have liked for the overall story to have a greater plot. There didn’t seem to be any one event that was the height of all the action. And then my biggest pet peeve, Nevaeh reads her mom’s journal, and apparently her mom wrote in her journal as if she were writing a novel. I don’t think people actually do that…

All that being said, I am always a fan of reading books to gain perspective on the situations of others unlike me, so I can’t say this was a waste of time in any way. I was just hoping for more from it.

Book Review – The Beginning of Everything

The Beginning of Everything is the story of Ezra Faulkner’s rise and fall in high school. The tennis team star and anticipated homecoming king sat at THE cafeteria table. He was invited to all of the coolest parties. He dated the coolest girl. He had the coolest friends. And then he didn’t. Then his girlfriend cheated on him, a car accident shattered his leg, and he fell in love with the offbeat new girl, Cassidy Thorpe. Was his life, as he knew it, ending? Or was this the beginning of everything?

Another Amazon Prime Reading freebie, I chose this book because I’ve read the author before, I was in the mood for a young adult read and, well, the cover just looked really cool. I’ve still been plugging along on my big, adult-like book that’s taking me forever to get through, but this Kindle is just pulling me away from that book and putting hundreds of others too easily at my fingertips!

Book 34:
The Beginning of Everything
by Robyn Schneider

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary

Published:
August 2013

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Beginning of Everything is the story of Ezra Faulkner’s rise and fall in high school. The tennis team star and anticipated homecoming king sat at THE cafeteria table. He was invited to all of the coolest parties. He dated the coolest girl. He had the coolest friends. And then he didn’t. Then his girlfriend cheated on him, a car accident shattered his leg, and he fell in love with the offbeat new girl, Cassidy Thorpe. Was his life, as he knew it, ending? Or was this the beginning of everything?

Favorite Quote(s):

“I still think that everyone’s life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst—the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere—it’s what comes after that determines the result.”

– Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2014)
Lincoln Award Nominee (2015)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2013)

Pages:
357

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I genuinely feel bad not giving this book a 4, BUT… I gave another of Robyn Schneider’s books, Extraordinary Means, 4 stars, and I have to say I would recommend that one higher than this one. Both were solid reads – great young adult novels, quick and heartfelt. I cried at least once while reading both.

Now let me talk about high school. It’s that four year span where everything matters but nothing actually matters… unless you make it matter. Ezra does this. Mature for his age, he steps out of his popularity and leans into who he truly wants to be. He was prompted, of course, by his circumstances, but I loved the believability of his journey and how even he questioned himself as antagonist or protagonist.

In many ways, I felt like Robyn was telling the story of my high school days, which made this book so fun to read.

So I guess I will sum up this review with these words: great, quick, heartfelt, believable, relatable. But you will still be pulled in quickly and shocked as events unfold. I should probably just bump this up to a 4…

Book Review – Extraordinary Means

Extraordinary Means is about Lane Rosen’s experience as he’s uprooted from his scholarly pursuit upon his diagnosis of modern day “Total Drug Resistant Tuberculosis”. He’s sent away to a sanatorium, Latham House, filled with kids with the same diagnosis who either get better and go home or die in this secluded environment with crazy rules, med sensors and strict regulations. It’s at Latham House that Lane learns important things about himself, what a true friend is, what he wants of whatever future he still has, and how to love. What does it mean for time to run out? What will unfold before then?

Confession: if there’s a Little Free Library on the side of the road, I will stop. I will take a book if I want it. Even if I don’t have one to replace it with. I do keep a stockpile at home of books I’m willing to part with, though, so sometimes I’ll take a book from one LFL and replace it with a book to another LFL. I like to think it’s all one big cycle. This next one was taken from a Little Free Library way out in the boonies of North Door and replaced by another book I had with me. I totally judged it by its cover when I grabbed it and, well… I wasn’t wrong.

Book 31:
Extraordinary Means
by Robyn Schneider

Genre:
Fiction, Young Adult

Published:
May 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Extraordinary Means is about Lane Rosen’s experience as he’s uprooted from his scholarly pursuit upon his diagnosis of modern day “Total Drug Resistant Tuberculosis”. He’s sent away to a sanatorium, Latham House, filled with kids with the same diagnosis who either get better and go home or die in this secluded environment with crazy rules, med sensors and strict regulations. It’s at Latham House that Lane learns important things about himself, what a true friend is, what he wants of whatever future he still has, and how to love. What does it mean for time to run out? What will unfold before then?

Favorite Quote(s):

“… I’ll keep going. Because that’s all you can do in this world, no matter how strong the current beats against you, or how heavy your burden, or how tragic your love story. You keep going. It took a lot of things to make me realize that. To make me see the path, as opposed to the destination.” 

-Robyn Schneider, Extraordinary Means

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction
Audie Award for Best Female Narrator

Pages:
324

My Overall Rating:
4 – At times, the inner dialog seemed too childish for the ages of the characters and there was one highly inappropriate scene that did not contribute to the overall plot that I could have done without. However, this story was gold. I cried twice. I fell in love with the characters and felt like I was one of their gang. I rooted something fierce for them and loved how the story turned out – the good and bad parts of it – because it all seemed so believable despite the fact that there is no such thing as the illness they were all fighting.

Book Review – My Lullaby of You

Amy, having just graduated high school, can’t wait to get out of town and get to Chicago where she’ll attend her dream college. Seth, one year away from finishing college, makes his way to that same town to tie up the lose ends of a relationship with his father and finally sort out his past. The two meet, interests are piqued, friendship quickly turns to love, but love turns to complications. Can Amy and Seth put the complications behind them and allow love to conquer while chasing the dreams of their future?

When it comes to books, two things automatically get me jazzed – debut novels and local authors. I just love the idea of someone tangible, someone who lives in the same state as me, setting their dream into motion, pushing their first baby out of the nest, because they tend to give that first one everything they’ve got. This next book was written by a friend of a friend, but I think if we didn’t live on opposite sides of the state she would just be a friend, because sometimes, through social media, it feels like we’re the same person. I was super excited that she allowed me to dive into an advanced reader copy to write this review.

Book 13:
My Lullaby of You
by Alia Rose

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary, Beach Read

Published:
June 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, My Lullaby of You is about two young adults whose paths cross one summer in a small North Carolina beach town. Amy, having just graduated high school, can’t wait to get out of town and get to Chicago where she’ll attend her dream college. Seth, one year away from finishing college, makes his way to that same town to tie up the lose ends of a relationship with his father and finally sort out his past. The two meet, interests are piqued, friendship quickly turns to love, but love turns to complications. Can Amy and Seth put the complications behind them and allow love to conquer while chasing the dreams of their future?

Favorite Quote:

“This is your shot. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll always have your degree, your talent in jazz, and another chance at getting in an ensemble.”

―Alia Rose, My Lullaby of You

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
287

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I have to start by admitting beach reads are not generally my thing, but this one definitely had more to it than I expected. Love stories are cute and fun and a good shakeup from my usual book of choice, but I was genuinely surprised by the plot twists in this book, which continuously made me want to read more and more. That being said, I read this quickly as it is written for young adults. 

I felt like the author perfectly captured the thoughts and feelings of young adults in the situations they were faced with. I resonated with Amy – in the summer after her high school graduation, it was as if she was “over” her high school life, ready to move on and mature past her years. I was impressed the author could portray that type of personality so well.

The one critique that bothered me was that I found myself rooting for the characters in the overarching theme of the story, but there were certain parts that felt unbelievable (i.e. Seth’s career path). While I do think young adult novels/beach reads should be dreamy, my realistic self had to role my eyes a bit when Seth talked of his plans and put his plans into motion. 

All-in-all, it’s a light, easy escape of a read with an engaging story. If that’s what you’re searching for, then I have to recommend this debut novel, and if you’re from Michigan, it’s a local author too!

Beach Read