A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
The Sinclairs have it all: old money, social standing, and a kingdom of dimpled children whose blond heads have never known the sufferings of the real world. But with great financial power come great responsibility, and this family’s epic would not be complete without tight-lipped family politics, carefully kept secrets, and scandal upon scandal covered up with untruth upon untruth.
I admire the audacity obvious in Lockhart’s portrayal of her characters. As she told me previously (my interview with her and Sarah Mlynowski is to come), she chose to write them riddled with as many flaws as any real human being, and there’s something courageous in that. It takes guts—especially in a teenage novel—to write such an imperfect love interest, such an unlikable romantic lead, and yet still manage to convey the absolute strength of first love.
The realism with which E. Lockhart painted her characters and the relationships between them was paralleled only by the distortion wrought by their lies. As you may have guessed, the novel’s title was aptly chosen. That being said, I found the narrator’s unreliability deliciously appealing. The uncertainty associated with not knowing whether or not I was being lied to by a novel’s main character—the only character a reader can trust in the blind faith of first person narration—was unfamiliarly rocky ground for me, and I loved it. If E. Lockhart’s goal was to shake things up in the world of YA literature, she succeeded in more ways than one.
I was of course, as simultaneously curious and horrified to uncover the summer’s truth as our protagonist. And now– I know what she did last summer, and I am aghast. I think I may have cried. The novel’s twists and turns, especially towards the end, have not yet ceased to unnerve me. They were beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and staggeringly dark.
All in all: 4.7/5 stars. This book had me hooked from cover to cover, and I adored it. Do not be fooled by its summer setting– it is many things, but a beach read is not one of them. It will far exceed your expectations.
But then again, I could be lying.
I’ll keep you posted,
A few things you should know about life in Canada’s capital:
1- The rumours are true. It is freezing. I am currently curled up in a very large, very down blanket extolling the fact that it snowed today.
2- As you may have guessed, it isn’t exactly the country’s literary metropolis. (I’m not entirely sure what the country’s literary metropolis is, but Ottawa is very far from it indeed.)
3- That being said, every fall Ottawa’s Public Library organizes an annual Teen Author Fest. In other words: it makes all my of dreams come true.
This year’s affair features the likes of grand YA figures such as Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Speak as well as The Impossible Knife of Memory), Sarah Mlynowski (author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)) and E. Lockhart (author of When We Were Liars).
In my barely contained excitement regarding this month’s upcoming events, it struck me that I forgot to post the photos of last year’s confabulation with the one and only Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
So without further ado, here they are:
(In which we chat about his books, how much I loved them as a kid, and also about how I am the only person in attendance aged over 12)
(In which Lemony Snicket is as eccentric as his author bios claim him to be, and I smile and nod like that’s completely normal)
(In which Lemony Snicket makes obnoxious jokes and I laugh anyway because, obnoxious or not, he’s actually really funny)
So there you have it. More photos are to come! Stay tuned.
I’ll keep you posted,
James Patterson returns to the genre that made him famous with a thrilling teen detective series about the mysterious and magnificently wealthy Angel family… and the dark secrets they’re keeping from one another.
On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: She was the last person to see her parents alive. The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. She can’t trust anyone -— maybe not even herself.
Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud’s intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents’ affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?
First confession: I had never read James Patterson before this past weekend. And as far as first tastes of any author go, Confessions of a Murder Suspect wasn’t half bad. It’s obvious why James Patterson is so well known within the genre of murder mystery: to put things simply, he’s good at it.
Second confession: he’s good at it, but not unimpeachable. Patterson lacked a few key elements necessary to transform this novel into something memorable– namely, a satisfactory ending. Confessions of a Murder Suspect was all build-up, no finale. Needless to say the anticlimax did not suit my tastes.
Neither, for that matter, did the style in which it was written. Confessions of a Murder Suspect as a whole is addressed to the reader, and in fact its narrator, Tandy Angel, addresses the reader directly on multiple occasions. Although I understand why Patterson attempts to write in this fashion– the title is, after all, Confessions of a Murder Suspect– I second the opinion of many when I assert that the overall result was indubitably fake and over-the-top.
That being said, over-the-top is the Angel family’s specialty. Each of its members is an unparalleled athlete, a prodigy, or a genius. Each of its members has skeletons buried deep inside their closets and secrets they themselves have yet to acknowledge. And each of its (remaining) members could indeed be guilty of the murder of Maud and Malcolm Angel: the two parents who started it all.
Tandy Angel has tasked herself with identifying the murderer, even if it turns out to be one of her siblings, and even if it turns out to be herself.
Third confession: I read Confessions of a Murder Suspect within a day. I couldn’t help myself; for the life of me, I couldn’t drag myself away. I had to keep turning pages. This novel is many things, but slow-paced is not one of them. It may be less than realistic, but it is highly addictive.
I keep wishing that Patterson had chosen to write this book as a standalone, as opposed to the beginning of a series. The concept was decent and the mystery was intriguing, but frankly I doubt that I’ll bother the pick up the sequel. For that reason, it would have been nice to have some of its loose ends tied up.
Final confession: 2.9/5 stars. Recommended to those who enjoy fast-paced cop shows, vapid entertainment, and dysfunctional family scandals.
I’ll keep you posted,
A huge thanks goes to Daria Snadowsky for taking the time to let me conduct this interview over email!
See my reviews of Anatomy of a Single Girl and Anatomy of a Boyfriend here.
Q: What inspired the series? Why write the books with such forthrightness and honesty?
A: Thank you! I’m asked this question a lot, so here’s my standard reply:
I remember my first hall meeting during freshman year of college–we were introducing ourselves and discovering that nearly half of us had boyfriends from high school. Then by the following semester, almost everyone had dumped or been dumped by her high school sweetheart. So I wanted to focus on that part of a girl’s life when she’s simultaneously excited for and scared of how college will change things. In the book, Dominique, the protagonist, says, “I used to think of college acceptance letters as emancipation proclamations. Now they’re like divorce papers.”
It was important to me to write a straightforward, nonjudgmental treatment of the emotional roller coaster of love. I resent that all of the words associated with romantic love are so pejorative. We’re often called “nuts,” “obsessed,” “head over heels,” “infatuated,” and “addicted”. Why is love saddled with such negative words considering that any one of us, no matter how brainy, sane, or logical, can feel this way? The Anatomy books concern a girl whose intelligence is above average but still longs uncontrollably for her crush. Her behaviors may seem crazy, but in truth what she’s experiencing couldn’t be more natural and human.
Q: The many breakups in the books were absolutely refreshing. But why not allow your protagonist to ride off into the sunset with her prince charming?
A: My aim was realism. Although I know people who ended up deliriously happy with their high school sweethearts, I know many more who did not. And by and large that’s a good thing. Breakups are excruciating and humbling, but they can also be empowering. Rejection forces us to face and overcome our deepest fears and insecurities, and it gives us a greater capacity for compassion. To me, happily ever after doesn’t have to include a significant other…it can be about feeling fulfilled on your own.
Q: What’s your dream cast for Anatomy and Anatomy?
A: Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with young talent today, so I’d cast teen versions of the following actors:
Dom: Emma Stone
Amy: Christina Ricci
Wes: Paul Bettany
Guy: Jason Segel
Calvin: Michael Cera
Q: Who are your favourite YA authors?
A: Judy Blume, Judy Blume, and Judy Blume. Did I mention Judy Blume? Her books basically got me through adolescence, and I dedicated Anatomy of a Boyfriend to her.
Q: When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? What did you want to be?
A: Gosh, no. I thought I’d be a journalist or a professor. I didn’t begin writing until after college and I got laid off as a magazine editor. I wrote the first draft of Anatomy of a Boyfriend in the year and a half between losing my job and starting law school.
Q: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?
A: 1) I used to be obsessed with Anthony Hopkins. That’s not an exaggeration. You can read about it here.
2) I wrote my college thesis on Ang Lee just so I could have an excuse to watchSense and Sensibility over and over again.
3) Forgive me, but I enjoy movies more than books.
Q: If you could take five things with you onto a deserted island, what would they be?
A: A sonar power generator, a smoothie maker, my computer, sunblock, and a satellite phone.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I have nothing to report on at the moment, but you can preview the first three chapters of Anatomy of a Single Girl here.
I’ll keep you posted,
Fellow book lovers,
Never have I ever been to New York City. Nevertheless my parents had the good fortune to sojourn there for a few days earlier this month, and the thoughtfulness to do some bookish research for me.
It appears that the Big Apple’s number one bookseller remains the Strand. Born in 1927, it has only grown in size– now holding 18 miles worth of books– since then. Its charm, sincerity, and immense collection of new and used books has kept its competitors close, and its valued patrons closer.
Speaking of charm:
A book bag spotted at the Strand. Delightful, no?
I hope to visit it for myself someday. Is it as marvellous as they say? Leave a comment and let me know!
I’ll keep you posted,
By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.
Common enemy, common cause.
When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.
And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.
But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.
What power can bruise the sky?
From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.
At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?
Seldom is a series so beautiful, so moving, so exhaustively excellent, that it leaves me absolutely breathless. Seldom is a series such an incredible whirlwind of ups and downs, questions and answers, facts and uncertainties, that it leaves me at once fully satiated and famished for more. Seldom have I turned pages this quickly or stayed up this late into the wee hours of the morning because of a single book.
Seldom have I encountered an author such as Laini Taylor.
Doctor Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
If grins could crack, mine would.
In Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Karou reestablishes herself as the kick-ass heroine with whom we all fell in love in the trilogy’s first book. She regains her confidence, rebuilds her reputation, and comes back with a vengeance. I don’t feel the particular need to discourse on the quality of the character development these transformations entail, but let it be said: these transformations entail character development of high, high quality.
The world building is, as always, top drawer. Not only is Eretz illustrated handsomely, but when seen from Taylor’s eyes, Earth too becomes a foreign planet, chapters skipping from Morocco to Washington D.C. to Rome. And the fantasy’s history is, of course, rich with legends and truths, all beautifully told and beautifully haunting.
Taylor’s writing is something remarkable in and of itself. Every sentence is a masterpiece, each word carefully chosen to carve a path straight to her readers’ hearts. Frankly I found myself underlining paragraphs in my hardcover– something I rarely allow myself to do.
It is a sad thing to love in the midst of war, and yet Taylor manages to transform this fragile hope into something shining and strong. The whole of Dreams of Gods and Monsters is in truth quite exhilarating; I became giddy and high off of the characters’ innate and omnipotent hope. They all refuse to be broken, and it’s wonderful.
I can still scarcely believe that Laini allowed her readers to be this happy. When reading series finales, expecting disappointment has become second nature for every reader; if one of your favourite characters hasn’t died, decamped, or parted ways with their soulmate yet, it’s usually because you haven’t turned the last page. But Dreams of Gods and Monsters demurs; it will not conclude in misery. I wouldn’t say it’s a happy ending– because that wasn’t an ending, not really– but it was pretty damn close. And I am over the moon for it.
Never have I been so amazed with Laini Taylor. Everything about Dreams of Gods and Monsters, from the plot’s most crucial turns to the wording’s most minute detail, was executed to the nines. I’ve said it before in regards to her work, and I’ll say it again: 5 stars. Aces, Laini. Aces.
I’ll keep you posted,
PS: See my review of the trilogy’s second book here.
Fellow book lovers,
You know as well as I do that a good book transports you to another world. Whether it be to somewhere foreign, or magical, or strange, the right kind of novel is always an escape.
To my utmost pleasure, this summer I was able to visit the setting of one of my all-time favourite YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. And I’m sure you’ll be happy to note that Prague is, beyond any doubt, everything it’s cracked up to be.
The Charles Bridge (site of many a formidable scene in Taylor’s novel) :
What do you think? Which bookish setting would you visit, if you could? Leave a comment and let me know!
I’ll keep you posted,
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.
It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.
The List features eight girls as main characters, half of whom have been deemed the prettiest in their grades by an unknowable but all-powerful source, and half of whom have been deemed the ugliest. The girls alternate as narrators throughout the week leading up to their homecoming dance, and during this short time we come to know their darkest secrets and their deepest fears.
Some may say that opting to use eight different narrators is biting off more than any one author can chew, but not Siobhan Vivian. She’s just that kind of woman: bold, undaunted, and eschewing literary limitations and conventions like it’s nobody’s business. And I must say that she manages well. Although I did have to flip back to see who had taken the stage on numerous occasions, this didn’t bother me as much as it could have, and I appreciated every character’s distinctive point of view.
Vivian approaches several teenage issues– eating disorders, bullying, identity, and objectification being but a few prime examples– and expounds on each of them in turn in her novel. The beauty of The List lies in her ability to illustrate these issues’ gravity without weighing her book down with their consequence. To the contrary, The List remains a light, easy read throughout the unfolding of its plot’s bleakest twists. This ability, to entertain and to inform at once, is of course a rare art.
Which is why I am positively woebegone to inform you of The List‘s pitiful ending. (This is the part where you say: “What ending?”) To her readers’ utter dismay, Vivian stopped writing at the climax. Now, as she has written and published several novels since The List, I believe that we can safely assume that she did not do so due to a sudden and untimely death. And as gleeful as this makes me, I can’t say that it excuses her behaviour. Because, come on, what is so wrong with a good, old-fashioned epilogue? We’ve fallen in love with– or at least gotten to know beyond the social constraints governing the real world– eight characters here, Siobhan. Was it really too much to ask to see how they faired twelve months later? Actually, forget twelve months later; I would have been happy with twelve minutes later.. Why was that so hard?
The List holds promise. It was engaging, entertaining, and charming enough to fully capture my attention from cover to cover. Unfortunately, its ending– or lack thereof– was enough to severely diminish said entertainment. For fans of high school dramas and all too clean breaks. 3.5/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,
I’m Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn’t want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee’s parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of “The Unbearable Book Club,” CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren’t friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I’ll turn in when I go back to school.
It’s official: summer is here. If the blazing red sunburn currently ensconcing my shoulders isn’t proof enough, surely my latest binge-reading of brightly-coloured beach reads must be. I’ll warn you straightaway: many, many Sarah Dessen reviews are to come. Be prepared.
Fortunately, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls was a superlative way to kick-start this summer. The plot dragged to such an extent that it effortlessly paralleled my heat-induced lethargy; the characters liked themselves with such narcissistic passion that I as reader never even had to waste any energy liking them myself; and the incredibly informative vocabulary words preceding each chapter abolished any apprehension I could possibly have felt in relation to the proper identification and classification of various plot happenings. As a final bonus, the novel’s protagonist, Adrienne Haus, is undergoing a brilliantly developped identity crisis to which I really feel teenagedom as a whole will be able to relate. Thank God for truly edifying main characters such as herself, yes?
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls has the premise of really good, really cheesy TV movie, Disney kids et al. Four girls. Three mothers. One book club. One remarkable summer during which unlikely friendships will be forged, rules broken, and lives lost. It’s too bad, really, that it didn’t pan out, but at least the producers will have nothing left to lose, right?
I think my foremost problem with The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls was the style in which it was written. A purported AP English creative essay written by Adrienne, the novel came across as juvenile and strained rather than candid. Of course, it didn’t help that our narrator was completely and utterly insufferable as a person. Honestly I felt exceedingly sorry for Adrienne’s mother, a single working mom who frankly didn’t need to waste any time or energy on her daughter’s snide remarks, as well as every other character who had the misfortunate to come in direct contact with her living soul. I await with great impatience the day Adrienne comes to the startling realization that the world does not, in fact, revolve around her. One of these days, my friends. One of these days.
High points include, and are limited to, an assortment of literary references littered throughout the novel, each one instantly appeasing any big-time reader, as well as a dramatic, if somewhat out of place, ending.
Recommended for middle-graders, book club enthusiasts, and people whose options are limited to this and bad TV. 2/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,
Since her parents’ bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.
Combining Sarah Dessen’s trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.
Sarah Dessen, for all of her grand reputation in the realm of YA fiction, has never been an author I’ve felt particularly inclined to read. Say what you will about my approach to contemporary novels, but as of yet my expectations have been completely and utterly satisfied with the assorted works John Green, as well as the occasional indulgence in a romance à la Jennifer E. Smith. And in this topsy turvy world where even Veronica Roth, acclaimed author of my current least favourite book, Allegiant, disappoints, why mess with a perfectly good thing?
All of this changed, however, during a distinctively pivotal moment of my life at Target last weekend. To my growing exhilaration, I discovered that What Happened to Goodbye was a whopping 20% off the cover price. Needless to say, I purchased it immediately. And never looked back.
What Happened to Goodbye follows the story of Mclean Sweet through her most recent move to Lakeview, home of the latest restaurant her father has been tasked with taking over, Restaurant Impossible style. This town, however, differs from the other three she and her father have lived in since her parents’ epic divorce: it is the first wherein she opts not to assume a predetermined, clean-cut, totally artificial personality, complete with a new name. Because sometimes you just need a fresh start. (Or three, or four.)
I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the (negligible) role the romance played in this novel. Although What Happened to Goodbye‘s synopsis heralds Dave as love interest extraordinaire, he spent the majority of the book squarely in the friend zone. Which was, to be honest, a breath of much-needed fresh air. As much as I enjoy a swoon-worthy romance– and from what I’ve heard, Sarah Dessen is queen of swoon-worthy romances– I appreciated this realistic break from YA fiction’s rampant hormones.
Really, What Happened to Goodbye‘s plot as a whole is really rather low-key. There’s no nail-biting suspense, no larger than life conflict, no epic cat fights between sworn frenemies. Even the climax is more of an anti-climax than anything else. And although this made for a very serene sort of read, and although What Happened to Goodbye is far from being Dessen’s most hailed book, I expected more. Because plot-wise, it wasn’t that far a cry from dull.
That being said, the plot– or lack thereof– left ample room for expertly crafted relationships between characters as well as skillful scenes of introspection. Kudos, Dessen. Kudos.
All in all, saying goodbye to this novel wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Oh, well. I’m sure we’ll meet again, Sarah Dessen. 3.2/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,