Dec
28

Title: How To Repair A Mechanical Heart
Author: J.C. Lillis
Published: September, 2012
Pages: 255
My Rating: ★★★★★ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.

A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?

Final Thoughts:
So, this was fanficcing-tastisc. Aside from, maybe, Fangirl, I’ve never seen so much fanfic love in a book. And here, both the main characters were gay! It had me gripped in the best possible way. I should lament—but I’m won’t—the poor disintegrating Sunday that met its demise when I started and finished this book that day. With so much to love about this book, from the cross-country convention road trip, flirting, internal warring over a religious upbringing, the geeking out and more flirting, I can’t help but want to recommend this book. I don’t want to let go of these characters—Brandon and Abel (and Bec) forever.

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Dec
27

Title: A&B
Author: J.C. Lillis
Published: November, 2016
Pages: 318
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: Kindle

Eighteen-year-old Barrie Krumholtz is a super-tall optimist hell-bent on a single goal: securing a slot on Pop University, a reality show for singer-songwriters helmed by her #1 musical idol. When she humiliates herself on national TV and loses a spot in the finals to smug balladeer Ava Alvarez, the door to Barrie’s well-hidden dark side swings open. Never a quitter, she uses her bitter envy of Ava to shape a bold new artistic direction, and people love it. But when Ava ropes her into a secret collaboration, it sparks feelings neither girl expected—feelings that might threaten their creative identities and distract them from their professional goals.

Can love and ambition live side by side? Is happiness an art-killer? They’ll figure it out with the help of a blue guitar named Fernando, a keyboard named Rosalinda, and a few new friends who feel like home.

(Rated R for Rivalry, Romance, and Really Neat Subplot featuring Brandon and Abel from HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART.)

Final Thoughts:
Being the companion to my much loved, and favourite book read this year, How To Repair A Mechanical Heart, I’m probably going to judge this one harsher than if it were a standalone. Barrie and Ava were great characters, but fresh off the first book, my heart still lies with Brandon and Abel. Luckily for me, they did more than just cameo briefly—they got their own subplot! A decade has passed and the guys are now my age, so seeing where their lives had taken them was heaps of fun. But the heart of the story lies with Barrie, and her jealousy/humungous crush on the reality show contestant that knocked her out of competing in Pop University, Ava.

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Dec
22

Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Published: June, 2015 by Soho Teen
Pages: 300
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Final Thoughts:
It’s hard to decide which camp I’m in on this one. The first hundred pages seemed to drag on with so much set up. And the characters, I just didn’t feel connected to them. Each time I’d put the book down, it left me with no desire to continue. However, I kept going, and once I got past a certain point things just clicked and I raced through the rest of the book. I felt like I was running on minimal sleep so that I could fit in as much reading time as possible. With a twist that gripped me, I ended up loving the book, but with the wringer it put me through, I’m torn over whether I’m in a better mindset for having read it.

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Dec
13

Title: Anything Could Happen
Author: Will Walton
Published: May, 2015 by Push
Pages: 288
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels — and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

Final Thoughts:
Having tried starting another book and failing to have it hold my attention, I switched it out for this one and found myself basically unable to function. I had to read this book. I haven’t switched on my TV since I started this one—that’s how much I needed to keep reading it. Tretch—while he may have had a weird name, he was very easy to sympathise with and cheer for. His plight may not have been anything ground breaking, but it reeled you in with its loveable characters and kept you wanting the best for them. Finding a YA book with a good coming out story 10 years back when I was a teenager was next to impossible, so it makes me happier to know that books like this one are out there now.

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Dec
10

Title: Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry #3)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published: August, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 308
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Luis Fuentes is a good boy who doesn’t live with the angst that his big brothers, Alex and Carlos, have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. But when he falls for the wrong girl,

Luis enters a dark world he’s never known, and just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?

Final Thoughts:
The spark seemed to have left with this one. It wasn’t boring, but it just felt like more of the same. I didn’t get all that invested with these characters as much as I did with Alex and Brittany or Carlos and Kiara. They just didn’t seem well rounded this time. Aside from the pregnancy scare, Nikki didn’t have much else going on in her life, and for Luis, it all led back to the gang stuff for him. I still enjoyed Chain Reaction, but found it much harder to find time to read it. I just didn’t have that pull making me want to pick it up.

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Nov
22

Title: Openly Straight (Openly Straight #1)
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Published: May, 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 320
My Rating: ★★★★★ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

Final Thoughts:
Stumbling through the first chapter, I worried I wouldn’t be able to get into yet another boarding school story. I was wrong. I could barely put it down. Opening Straight had me fidgeting back and forth, trying to find a comfortable position to read in bed, long past midnight. The premise of going back into the closet, or even just trying to change people’s perception of you, was one quite easy to connect with. While the main character, Rafe’s, being gay (and hiding it) was a big part of the story, it wasn’t that big of a leap to extrapolate his situation into pretty much anyone having moved and wanting to reinvent themselves.

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Nov
05

Title: Rules Of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published: April, 2010 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 326
My Rating: ★★★★☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

Carlos Fuentes isn’t happy about leaving Mexico to start the “new” life his older Brother, Alex, has planned for him. Carlos like his freedom; living life on the edge and carving out his own path – just like Alex did.

Kiara Westford doesn’t talk much; preferring instead to shut the world out. And when Carlos bounds into her life she struggles to understand him and his wild ways. Carlos is sure that Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, which is just fine because he’s not interested anyway, right? But when they finally open up to each other, the connection they feel shocks them both. Can they overcome their fears and realize that sometimes opposites really do attract?

Final Thoughts:
Much like Perfect Chemistry, I couldn’t get enough of this one. Rules of Engagement is so similar in tone, but does so without feeling like a rehash of the first book. A couple of years have passed, and now we’re focusing on Alex’s younger brother, Carlos and his love interest, Kiara. I think I found these two even more enjoyable than Brittany and Alex (who make plenty of cameos)—there’s less gang stuff this time around and more of a focus on the romance and snark.

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