More Than Friends by Liv Devereaux

Published: 5th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 47
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dana and Hope used to be best friends in elementary school. When they got to high school they lost touch. Dana got busy with soccer and Hope found a boyfriend. When they are paired up together for a project, Dana and Hope get the chance to get to know each other all over again. They’ll realize that both girls have changed in the last three years of high school. 

I picked this not looking at the page length, rather by the summary. I could easily see this as a full novel though, Devereaux easily could expand this into something longer, the bones are there. As is it is sweet, a bit rushed and easily solved, but at 47 pages you can’t expect anything but happy coincidences and easy solutions.

Despite this, it was a nice story, and even though it was short it felt established and rounded and a satisfactory read. Dana and Hope were good characters, the dual narration offers two perspectives and two stories, a great chance for readers to see the misunderstandings and hidden secrets which make young romance so lovely.

I would read this again if Devereaux expanded this into a full novel, but for the time being it was a lovely story about young love and repairing friendships.

You can purchase More Than Friends via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

King & King by Linda de Haan

Published: 1st March 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Tricycle Press
Illustrator: Stern Nijland
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.

The story is simple and to the point. I enjoyed how de Haan didn’t need to explain further about why the prince didn’t want a princess, he just didn’t. This was also something the queen accepted, she just needed the prince married so she count retire as planned. The prince meets with a variety of princesses from around the world which he has no interest in until one princess brings along her brother.

The illustrations aren’t the most pleasing to look at but they do the job. They are creative I will give credit for that and look like they have been compiled from cut out pictures, one page cleverly using what appears to be magazine snippets of a variety of words.

This isn’t a complex book explaining homosexuality to children, there is no long explanation about any of it. What it is though is a story which normalises it and explains that some princes like other princes and as long as he’s happy, everyone is happy.

You can purchase King & King via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

Fishpond | QBD

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin

Published: 14th March 2017 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Dial Books
Illustrator: Samantha Cotterill
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Charlotte has always really wanted a pet, so when her parents present her with one for her birthday she expects a cat, dog, or maybe a bird. Instead, she receives a rock. Rocks can’t cuddle, fetch, or even help her eat her vegetables, but that doesn’t stop Charlotte from loving her rock as if he were real. If only he could love her back…or can he? 

This is a fun story that is enjoyable to read and even has a few surprises. It is delightfully silly without going over the top and I loved Charlotte’s sincerity over the whole situation as she treated her rock like any other pet. The writing is simple with one sentence or so covering each issue or moment but Martin tells the story simply but effectively and interestingly.

I actually thought this was going to be a sadder story about poor Charlotte who only had a rock for a pet but I was pleasantly surprised. She treats it like any other pet and while it can cause a few hassles, what pet doesn’t? Her optimism is enchanting and I love that the rock isn’t any normal sized rock but still she carries on.

Cotterill’s illustrations are simple and the colours basic, but I liked the design of Charlotte. She looks like the perfect six year old who wouldn’t mind having a rock as a pet and making the best out of the situation. She is adaptable and will enjoy her pet even if it is a little unconventional. The colour scheme is made of up of washed out red, green, and brown which works remarkably well. It gives an old feel to the book and doesn’t take anything away from the illustrations themselves.

This is a fun book that kids will enjoy reading for the humour and the silly nature is easy to exploit when reading it aloud. It may also give hope to those kids who can’t have the pet that they wished for and instead lets them realise how much fun having a pet rock can be.

You can purchase Charlotte and the Rock via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Fishpond

Dymocks | QBD

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

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