Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth ScottStealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Published by HarperTeen
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Dani has been trained as a thief by the best--her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends--a real life

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani--because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known--or the one she's always wanted.

Thoughts: I was surprised by Stealing Heaven. I picked it up expecting a cheery, chick-lit read – Ocean’s Eleven a-la-Sophie-Kinsella. That would have been great, but what Scott delivers is about 20x better. Stealing Heaven is a serious book. Dani grows up with a mother who has indoctrinated her into a life of crime – a life that Dani is just not meant for. She’s never been to school, never been able to tell anyone her real name, never had any friends – and, on top of that, there’s her absent father and her mother’s manic relationship with thievery. Less than ideal is putting it mildly.

But even as Dani’s mom behaves in ways unbefitting a mother, Dani is able to recognise why her mother her is behaving so thoughtlessly. It’s really easy for a teen to just turn around and hate their parents – but Dani doesn’t because, even as a teen, she can see her mother with the eyes of an adult. I read this book wishing I could hate her mom – but I just couldn’t. It is fantastic, and adds a whole new level to what could have been a simple break-away-from-your-family book.

Stealing Heaven is about a girl working out who she is, and what that means for her family. About a girl who has to wake up, take her head out of the sand, and truly examine her life. She doesn’t do it for a boy – although she does have an extremely influential romance with, get this, a cop – and she doesn’t do it for a friend – although she makes pals with a lovely girl along the way. Dani changes her life for herself, and it is wonderful to read.

Bottom line?  A fantastic contemporary read for young adults. This book is sweet, sad, and thoughtful – you’ll love it.  I can’t wait to read more by Elizabeth Scott!

Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Review: Boy Meets Boy by David LevithanBoy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Published by HarperCollins on 2009-02-19
Pages: 240
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

Thoughts: This was a lovely book.  Short, sweet and, well, lovely.

When I bought Boy Meets Boy I was somewhat skeptical.  I wasn’t sure I would enjoy a book where the world was happy! with sunshine!and flowers! But, luckily, Levithan must have had the same thought.  Because although Paul’s high school is a gay kid’s dream come true – the rest of the world in the book is certainly not like that.  What Paul considers “normal” is a luxury to everyone else – including his new boyfriend Noah.  I think this scene between Noah and Paul kinda sums it up:

“Have you always known?” he asks.  I know immediately what he’s talking about.
“Pretty much so, yeah,” I answer.  “You?”
He nods, […].
“Has it been easy for you?”
“Yes,” I tell him, because it’s the truth.
“It hasn’t always been easy for me,” he says, then says no more.
– Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, pg. 49

So while watching Paul come to the realisation that dude, did he ever luck out – there is also plenty of drama without all that pesky coming-out business.  Guys can be idiots, even when they are dating other guys.  And just because you don’t have to worry about getting bashed doesn’t mean you can’t royally screw up.  Which Paul does.  Very successfully.

I was also very impressed by Levithan’s writing style.  This is a short novel, filled with a rich and diverse cast of characters – Levithan made each of them shine bright.  Not to mention his writing style is elegant as hell and some of his ideas are out of another world.  The book opens with the boys dancing on a night out – in a bookstore.  Honestly, how brilliant is that?

Bottom line? This is a lovely, elegant tale.  Short and sweet, I was loath to put it down.

Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

After finishing Rules of Attraction, I knew there was no way to review it without referencing Perfect Chemistry.  So, here they are – reviews for Simone Elkeles’s romantic YA novels, Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction.  Even if you haven’t read the first book, read the review to Rules of Attraction – there’s nothing there that you wouldn’t have worked out all on your own, anyhow!


Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone ElkelesPerfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #1
Pages: 368
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary YA
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Also in this series: Chain Reaction

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.

Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

Thoughts: If you’ve read The Bookette’s review of this book, you no doubt ran to the store and bought a copy.  Becky calls it her favourite book of all time – and as a general rule, I tend to agree with her.  But while I really enjoyed Perfect Chemistry – Elkeles’s writing is positively addictive – I did have quite a few problems with the plot.

Let’s start with what I did like.  I thought Brittany was a wonderful heroine.  At first, you’d think a cheerleader would not be a character you could identify with – but Brittany’s love for her disabled sister was utterly endearing.  I also loved how Elkeles discussed the real-life misery of most teens.  Perfect Chemistry is filled with drugs, gang violence, teenage drinking and a fair bit of barely-suitable sex.  Perhaps not what you want all teens reading, but that’s real life for you.  It isn’t pretty and it sure isn’t fun – but you can believe it.

Elkeles also did a brilliant job portraying the Mexican-American community – especially the family-oriented values of a lot of latinos.  Alex does a lot of bad things out of duty and love to his family – and it felt real.

However, my main issues in Perfect Chemistry were with Alex.  He’s set up as this bad boy who secretly wants to be good – he is supposedly a brilliant student who only wants to go on to have a “normal” life.  Apparently, he can’t do just that out of fear of retribution from his gang.  Kinda understandable – especially if he’s protecting his family.

That’s page one.

But then he spends the rest of the book enjoying the trouble he stirs up.  Huh?  I thought his bet to seduce Britt positively degrading – but somehow we were supposed to think he was doing it against his will.  If he had started out a thug and then changed, his character would have made more sense (read my review of Rules of Attraction for a longer rant on the matter).  Instead, all I wanted to do was slap him up the side of the head for 3/4 of the book.  Honestly.

Bottom line? Even though I thought Perfect Chemistry was a fun, addictive read – it won’t be on my favourites pile.  Rules of Attraction, on the other hand…


Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone ElkelesRules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #2
Published by Simon & Schuster, Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary YA
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Also in this series: Chain Reaction

When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado. Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.

Two rather superficial notes:

  1. The trailer to this book is absolutely fantastic.  I don’t usually like book trailers, but this one made me rush out and get PC so that I could read the seqeul.  It’s that good.  Watch it!
  2. The scene on the fantabulous cover?  It is actually in the book.  *dies*  ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:  Rules of Attraction is bloody brilliant.  I stayed up to 7am to finish this book – and I don’t regret a single minute of my missed sleep.  It had everything I loved from Perfect Chemistry, only with leading characters that I not only liked – I loved.

Let’s start with Carlos.  When we are introduced to Carlos, he is exactly what he looks like: a thug.  He’s accepted that that is all anyone will ever see him as – a drug runner and a Very. Bad. Man. – and decided he might as well roll with it.  In his mind, his brother is delusional to think he could ever be free from the prejudice – so why should he bother trying.  That he’s stuck living in his brother’s apple-pie world?  Not something Carlos is happy about.

But he can’t fool us.  You see, we saw kiddie!Carlos in Perfect Chemistry – so, deep down?  We know he has the potential to be a good guy.  If he can just allow himself to see that, we’d be home free.  (Not to mention the fact that Carlos at his worst was still a nicer guy than badboy!Alex.  But, never mind.)

Watching Carlos accept that he can change – and that he wants to change – was fantastic to read.  He has the advantage of some kick-ass back up who helped him break away from gang violence.  Although his fight against the baddies was easier than Alex’s, his emotional struggle was a hell of a lot harder.  And watching a character on the road to redemption?  A hell of a lot better than watching some guy (*cough* Alex *cough*) who knows the right path but is too much of a coward to go down it.

Ok, that was harsh and I don’t quite mean that – but you get my point.

And then there is Kiara.  Oh, Kiara. *hugs*  I absolutely loved Kiara – she’s a such fantastic character.  She makes salads with spinach, has a gay BFF, loves to go hiking and only buys organic meat.  She’s even had proper parenting – the type with open and frank discussions about sex and drugs and whatnot.   In other words, Kiara would be my best friend if she actually – ya know – existed.  Of course, Kiara’s not perfect.  She has some serious confidence issues and a terrible stutter – all of which made me love her more.

Anyhow, Carlos and Kiara made sense together in a way so few pairings do.  Unlike Brittany and Alex, who were compatible because they were both caretakers as older siblings – Kiara and Carlos manage to be together without all that emotional angst.  She softens his edges, and he gives her courage – they are healthy couple and it’s fantastic to read.

Bottom line?  Rules of Attraction made me a believer.  A believer in true love, people’s ability to really change, and ability of cookies to unite the world in songs of love and joy and happiness and… where was I?  Oh yeah.

The third and final book in the trilogy will focus on Carlos and Alex’s brother Luis. Instead of a bad boy-good girl romance, it Luis will fall for a bad girl. Kinda awesome, huh? Comes out in 2011.

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