I hope everyone is doing well 🙂 Recently I’ve been back from vacation and been able to read more than I have in a little while. It felt strange at first to be able to read so much with having so many adult responsibilities, but it quickly grew on me and I just plowing through stuff. So here’s the first of a few book reviews that will be coming 🙂
Title: Far From You
Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary
Release Date: April 8, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 341 (US Hardcover)
Format: Library Book
Synopsis: When Sophie Winters gets out of drug rehab, she sets out to find out the truth of who killed her best friend Mina. After a damaging car accident that left Sophie battered and hooked on pain pills, she and Mina were going to meet someone when a masked shooter killed Mina and planted more drugs on Sophie. No one will believe that she was already clean of drugs when everything happened. But that wont’ stop her from finding the killer, as well as figuring out her feelings for Mina and life after tragedy.
I had briefly heard about this book on a couple Booktube channels, but it’s still a book I hear no one talk about. So I requested it from a library and took it on vacation with me. I basically read this book within 36 hours and it’s an emotional and sometimes dark but hopeful read. I got some A Psalm for Lost Girls vibes with the main character trying to deal with the grief of the person they lost in a small town. This was a solid contemporary/mystery/thriller book to satisfy my reading itch.
Characters: I really enjoyed going on Sophie’s journey. We see, through a non-linear timeline, how she meets Mina, the car accident, the addiction to pain medication and Mina’s murder. She’s angry for what’s happened and she does come off as rude and pushy, but I understood why. Her own parents won’t believe anything she says after the drugs were planted on her and the police dismissed the case as a drug deal gone wrong. But she also uses her words to communicate how she feels. She’s a smart girl who knows herself, doesn’t hide who she is and also doesn’t put herself first anymore. Her motivations to stay clean was inspiring and while her flaws were very real, she never gave in. She also identifies as bisexual.
Mina, her best friend and first love, is a selfless person in many ways. She tries to help Mina with her addiction in the beginning. But she’s also afraid of what the future will bring; she is a lesbian and she’s afraid to tell her mother whose very religious. Both girls do some harmful things to each other, since they keep their relationship a secret and I felt like their actions are true to life. People who love each other can do some stupid things when they don’t mean to. But they do support each other through everything, even with Mina being murdered.
The other side characters also felt very fleshed out as the story went along. You see how Sophie’s parents, a lawyer and a dentist, struggle with Sophie’s choices and the consequences of the murder investigation. They love Sophie and want to protect her, but their actions don’t exactly reflect that. Sophie does understand, in a small way, why they did what they did to protect her but doesn’t quite forgive them yet. The author does a great job of showing what a small town is like and how the families both girls are present in their lives. Each character has their own intentions, some not revealed right away and you understand their motivations through the author’s writing.
Plot: I really enjoyed the plot of this book. It can appear slow in a couple parts, but the pacing it has is necessary to help the story unfold. The present timeline follows Sophie as she tries to uncover who killed Mina and the past timeline shows their friendship, the car accident and shapes Sophie’s character as she endures physical therapy, getting clean and her struggles with wanting to use, love and other struggles. Things do unravel quickly at the end and it was engaging and intense to bring an interesting conclusion.
Writing: For a debut novel, Tess Sharpe did an awesome job with the story. I could tell she did a lot of research with what it would be like to have an addiction of pain pills after a car accident that left you with an awful back and one leg. She also shows grief, loss, fear, uncertainty and the other emotions Sophie feels. Here’s a few passages that I feel like show some aspects of the book:
Cons: I only had a couple cons that mainly reflect my personal preferences than actual problems I had with the book. I didn’t like the profanity in the book; I can understand if you’re in extreme pain or an extreme emotion and it just comes out. But I don’t like the excessive use of it, as well as the sex scene that happens. The other con was that I feel like a choice Sophie makes at the end doesn’t make sense. I wish she’d kept what she was given instead of getting rid of it. I didn’t quite feel enough closure at the end, but I could also see how that shows what life can be like as well.
Overall: This was a powerful and emotional debut novel. If you’re looking for a contemporary type book that has way more substance to it, definitely check this one out. Sophie is a fantastic main character to read from and it’s a powerful story of grief, addiction/recovery and shocking secrets. It’s also a diverse read if you’re looking for more diverse books to read.
Title: All the Wind in the World
Genre: YA Western/Magical Realism
Release Date: October 10, 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Kindle ARC
*I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are mine. No quotes will be used as per request of the publisher*
Ever since I read Mabry’s debut novel a couple months ago, I fell fast for her writing style and her amazing story set in Puerto Rico. So I was really hyped for her sophomore novel, especially since it was long listed for the National Book Award recently. NetGalley granted my wish to read it and I was so excited. I read this within about 48 hours but…it fell flat for me. I love her first novel so much more. I wanted to love this so much, but didn’t. Here’s the breakdown.
- Setting: Samantha Mabry gives us a dusty, harsh and unforgiving desert setting in which water is pretty much gone. People have to cut these maguey plants and distill them into alcohol. People hop trains and go from plantation to plantation, cutting these plants for meager wages and working in the punishing sun. The world she’s created is unique with how she describes it. She’s amazing at imagery, metaphors and describing the world around the characters. Sometimes you can feel the hot metal of the train cars, the stinking camps where the workers live and the dust collecting on you while you cut these plants. It feels like a post-apocalyptic world but isn’t. You get the same magical and unique setting in this sophomore novel like you did in her debut.
- Writing: The whole time I was reading this book, I was never disappointed in her writing style. Samantha Mabry is a beautifully gifted writer, with bringing her books to life with her smooth and effortless prose. You can tell magical realism is her niche, with magic woven into the words. You believe the world you’re reading about is real and the journey ahead is a wondrous mystery. I think her writing definitely has improved in the best way and she kept me reading the whole time.
- Minor Characters: Bell and Leo made impressions on me by the end. I feel like they were the most fleshed out characters. Bell is the youngest daughter of the owner of the Real Marvelous ranch that Sarah becomes involved with. The way her character grows and changes was endearing and very real. Leo is a person that Sarah and James at the beginning, and while he’s a drunk, his intentions are genuine despite Sarah’s hesitation of him. His personality grew on me and I grew to care about what happened to him.
- Plot: To me, this book was all over the place after a few chapters. The book seemed to have a clear path of where it would go in the beginning, but it got too busy really quick. Different and weird things kept popping up and the plot kept expanding and became bloated. It took forever for things to come to a head. You don’t learn any truths until 80% of the book. That’s way too long waiting for learning of what’s really going on. There was a character that came in who had no place in the book. They kept making the plot bloated and didn’t leave much to the imagination. If this character was taken out completely, I feel like the things that happened later would actually be surprising and the tension would be there. The event at the beginning is referenced again and you think that it’ll become important but it doesn’t. I was confused of why it was brought up again, then dropped again.
- Sarah Jac (MC): Man this girl made me frustrated! I get that she didn’t have a happy upbringing and went through many trials; the harsh world made her into a hardhearted person. But I feel like a few choices she made seemed out of character. She was SO stubborn that she refused to move, despite the terror and all the stuff that happened. She never actually grows as a person. In a small way, I know that’s how some people are and I do see how she was shaped by the world. But she never follows through on a few actions that she wanted to do. I never understand why characters don’t follow through on something they’re serious about. If you don’t mind very very stubborn characters, you might not be as bothered. But I like reading stories that show how people change due to their environment. She was way too rude and self-destructive of a person to enjoy the book very much.
- Unbelievable Romance: The major component of the story is the “romance” between Sarah and James. They’ve known each other for a long time and have a plan of how to live after saving up money. While I did believe that they had been through a lot together and that they did ultimately care for each other, that belief vanished quickly as the book went on. Their relationship was a bit toxic and manipulative and not romantic to me. When the book is over, they never discuss the stuff they did to each other or apologize or anything. James also doesn’t get room to grow as a character either. All of his stuff is in the background. I agree with a few other reviewers that getting his perspective would help broaden the story.
- Lack of explanation/closure: By the time the book is over, you really don’t much explanation as far as the magical element; it’s just barely mentioned but not really discussed. It also just feels like the situation where the author was running out of pages to finish the book and it just opens. The more open ending might not satisfy some readers, but it was okay for me. But having the lack of connection to the main characters didn’t help not feeling like the ending was satisfying.
Overall: I still sad that I didn’t love this book after finishing it. I do love her writing style, but I think that many younger readers will be bored by this book. I also think there’s some references that are too much for YA books (a reference to bestiality, for example) that didn’t need to be in there. I think older readers will get a bit more out of it though. I just think her debut novel was more cohesive and satisfying.
Have you read any of these books? Are you anticipating All the Wind in the World? What do you think of the synopsis of these books?