Reaching Avery (#2) by Jaclyn Osborn

Published: 24th March 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 313
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Maverick Blake is the typical jock: athletic, handsome, extroverted, and popular. But there is so much more to him. Beneath the pretty face, there’s a guy who loves science, theater, and comic books. He wishes people would look past his appearance and see him for who he truly is, but most are only interested in the surface.

Avery Kinkead is used to people disappointing him—hurting him. He sees the world through leery eyes, and doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to escape the demons in his own mind. He has suffered more than most people twice his age, and his scars—both mental and physical—leave him untrusting of everyone, except for his younger brother and mom.

When Maverick meets Avery, he sees a broken boy who tries desperately to stay invisible, but Mav can’t stay away. Not when he sees the shadows behind Avery’s blue eyes, and the mistrust in his every glance.

It starts with a simple friendship, but soon, their hearts start getting involved, and things get complicated. As if graduating high school wasn’t hard enough.

I wanted to love this, I tried to love this! I did! I wanted to get caught up in this story about these two boys who are both pushing against stereotypes and see them come together and be their best selves. Instead what I got was a story that is good in concept but average in execution. While Osborn’s previous book in this series wasn’t perfect either I could look past the structural and writing side of it for the cute teenage romance. I couldn’t do that here, this was a much harder book to read because of the writing issues, it was hard not to notice when sentences and dialogue felt unnatural and unbelievable.

Initially I was able to look past the writing and tried to fall in love with Maverick and Avery, I enjoyed their flirtation and their uncertainty as they explored their feelings from afar. I also enjoyed when they finally came together because Osborn took it slowly and used her character’s experience and histories to guide their interactions. I persisted because I understood what she was trying to do, I could see the story there even if it wasn’t expressed the most eloquently or cleanly and it was good for a while, but towards the end of the novel it became too much. I couldn’t separate the narrative from the romance, the writing is corny but corny in a bad way. I couldn’t hear the character voices and often it felt like a collection of motivational quotes and life affirming optimism. Which isn’t terrible, having characters who are optimistic is fine, but there needs to be balance and a less in your face way of expressing it.

I was confused because Osborn wrote the first book fine, not perfect but better. There were so many things happening in this that were good, there was a lot about being yourself and not worrying what other people thought, there’s self doubt, imperfect family dynamics, there’s deeper darker things like self harm and abuse, but Osborn hasn’t navigate these topics in a strong enough way. The components are all there that could have made a great story, it just needed stronger editing and a bit of guidance.

There was diversity in the characters which was great to see, Osborn has brought together a group of people who are all different in the school social groups but brings them together to form strong bonds all the same. It was good to see cameos and revisits to characters we’d been introduced to in Noah’s Song and it was good to see how the story continued.

Avery was a sweet character and I think he had the best voice of them both, I enjoyed his chapters more because there was a bit more realness to him. Not that Maverick’s didn’t, but it felt less explored and shallow. There was also a great representation of all the secondary characters. You got a sense of all the characters involved and could understand who they were, even if they were only there briefly.

I did enjoy this book, I was caught up in the early days of romance between Maverick and Avery which is adorable at the heart of it. I liked what Osborn was trying to achieve, but I’m just disappointed it didn’t quite reach the mark, it has the possibility of being a wonderful book.

You can purchase Reaching Avery via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Noah’s Song by Jaclyn Osborn

Published: 28th February 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Encompass Ink
Pages: 266
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Noah Derwin knows what it’s like to be different. Being a seventeen-year-old kid in high school with blue hair, piercings, a mostly all black wardrobe, and an obsession with zombies and video games, he doesn’t exactly blend in. But he never wanted to. His two dads raised him to always stay true to himself.

Bastian Hunter prefers structure and predictability. Suffering from a rare disease, every day is a challenge for him, and he prepares for the future by excelling academically and denying who he really is. Everything changes when he meets Noah, the unpredictable variable in the equation he’s built his life around, and feelings he’s hid for so long begin to surface.

Being gay in high school isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies, and Noah has definitely faced his fair share of bullies. Moving to Port Haven, Oregon opens up new possibilities for him, and he starts falling for the quiet, brown-eyed boy from his English class. Too bad the attraction is one-sided… or is it?

I found this book by chance and gave it a go because it sounded interesting and I’m glad I did because I found myself quite invested and attached to these adorable teenagers and their love story. There are certainly some flaws in Osborn’s story, both in structure and plot, but I still found myself enjoying it all the same. It is a good heartfelt story about being who you are and discovering who you are. It’s cliché at times and a bit unrealistic in some aspects but it a wholesome story that still makes you feel warm inside.

Getting the problems out of the way first, the writing can be clunky occasionally and the dialogue balances between realistic and cheesy, but the intent is there and if you look past the imperfections in the writing, there are some wonderful moments and it is a good story underneath.

On the positive side, there is a good exploration of disability and LGBT issues which was great to see explored in a story and yet not be the Focus of the story or the Point of the story. Osborn has managed to make it just part of who these character are, something that Noah highlights himself. That isn’t to say they don’t contribute to the issues in the story, but there is more going on than Noah being gay, instead it’s like any other young love YA where there’s a crush and general teenage angst and trepidation.

Osborn has clearly tried to break down stereotypes and perceived perceptions, even if she does so by literally pointing it out to the reader. Some of the characters are sweethearts and are good unique and complicated characters but I felt there could have been some better development in terms of some characters, or maybe that’s something that could be improved with an adjustment and naturalisation of the dialogue.

I think what Osborn has tried to do is include too many supportive moments and tried to be too on message. As much as I understood what she was trying to achieve it felt too perfect, too much like everyone was a good person, and for those that weren’t, it didn’t take long and not too many words to change their minds.

I really enjoyed watch Noah find his feet and I will admit I got my own cheesy grin on my face watching him falter and try to act natural around the boy he likes. It was all kinds of adorable and it was one of those nice moments when you could see an outcome long before it happened so you got to enjoy Noah’s confusion and uncertainty around Bas, all the while you just waited for the moment when it all came to a head.

Watching Noah and Bas together was absolutely adorable and I loved Noah’s reaction and interaction with him. Noah himself is a complicated character, there is a lot going on with him that I felt Osborn could have focused more on, again, tied into a stronger writing style, but nevertheless it was an interesting route she chose to take with him because while simple and idealistic characters can be one dimensional, Noah knows who he is and while he still struggles with some things, he is also a little self-assured too. Something which suits Osborn’s expression of him.

Like I say, it’s idealistic but it’s heart-warming. It’s a feel good story that tries to have a nice little message in there even if there are a few flaws in the story and the structure. I still enjoyed it and I was surprised how invested I got in the characters and even more so finding myself with my own cheesy grin on my face at these teenagers which sometimes were just too adorable.

You can purchase Noah’s Song via the following

Audible | Amazon | Amazon Aust